Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period X - From The Oath Of Abjuration Refused, Till The Transportation To Closeburn Refused By The Commission
On the following Sabbath, being 2nd November, I did, under a great pressure, from the consideration of the severity of the law upon the one hand, and the temper of the parish upon the other, enter again on my work, at my peril. What I said by way of preface that day, is also to be found in the notes aforesaid: after which I went on as before, proceeding on the same text in my ordinary, Phil. 3. And I bless the Lord, who gave me counsel, not to intermit the exercise of my ministry for ever so short a time, on that trying occasion.
According to what befel me on the 28th of October, with respect to proceeding in writing of the Fourfold State, I applied myself closely thereto again; I had perfected the following part thereof, viz. the state of grace, by the 23rd of December.
Proceeding in writing of the Fourfold State, I finished it on the 9th of March. On the 25th of January I gave myself unto prayer, with new endeavours after personal holiness. Then I went on; and, according to my natural disposition when once engaged in a work, was too eager. Rising to it long before day, on the Saturday morning thereafter, that day my body was sore weakened, my spirits exhausted, very little was done, and that little very unsatisfying. At length I was obliged to leave it, with that check, "It is vain for you to rise up early," etc., Ps. 127: 2; and I resolved through grace to do so no more. And now do I bless God, for that that eagerness is removed, and it goes better with me. However, on the 9th of March the work was finished: and for the help of the Lord I had therein, I desire to be thankful. Whatever the Lord minds to do with them, I had worth my pains in the work, with respect to my own private ease; for they made me many errands to the throne of grace, and helped me to keep up a sense of religion on my spirit. Writing of heaven, I found it no easy thing to believe the greatness of that glory which is to be revealed. The copy then written in octave, which is in retentis, was not the copy from which it was afterwards printed.
On Friday, 3rd April, about eight minutes after one in the morning, my youngest son Thomas was born; and was baptized on the 14th, by Mr. William Macghie, minister of Selkirk.
Coming in view of the sacrament this year, the impression I had of the low state of practical religion in the place, led me to a new ordinary, viz. Hos. 14, which chapter I began 17th May, and proceeding therein to the last clause of ver. 6, dwelt long on it.
I find that, about this time, having seen Cross's Taghmical Art, I was begun to have some notion of the accentuation of the Hebrew Bible, according to the principles of that author. Having been with Mr. Macghie foresaid in his closet at a time, he happened to speak of his acquaintance with Mr. Cross at London, and of his giving him a copy of his book above mentioned, which I believe I had never heard of before. I desired thereupon to see the book; and, finding it relate to the sacred Hebrew, I borrowed it from him. This behoved to be, either in the spring this year, or else in October 1710, what time I was assisting at the sacrament there. Had I known then what was in the womb of that step of Providence, I had surely marked the day of my borrowing that book, as one of the happiest days of my life.
Great was the stumbling among the people through the south and west, on the account of the abjuration oath, taken, in the preceding year, by about two parts of three of the ministry in Scotland: and I gained but little in our parish, by my refusing it; because I would not separate from, but still kept communion with, the jurors; meeting with them in presbyteries and synods. And now was beginning the schism made by Mr. John Taylor, minister of Wamphray, on that account. I had been assisting to the said Mr. Taylor at the sacrament in the year 1711; and he to me in the 1712; as he was also this year, 7th June, on the same occasion. On that night, after the public work was over, finding him inclined to separation upon the account of the oath, I earnestly argued against it from the holy Scripture: and he seemed not to be very peremptory, nor much to set himself to answer my arguings. But immediately after this conference on that subject, going to family-worship, whereat a great many were present, but perhaps all strangers, except my own family, he surprised me with his discourse on Ps. 23, delivered in a very homely manner, and just feeding the reeling, separating humour among the people: the which I looked upon as a sorry piece of service at best, and unbecoming a man of sense and consideration, in these circumstances.
On the 12th of July, I was assisting to him again. And the work being begun before I got thither, on the Saturday, I sat down on the braeside among the people; where, after sermons, I was surprised to hear him shew their resolution to declare their adherence to the covenants, national and solemn league, for which they had made some preparation on the fast-day; but withal leaving others to their liberty. The people, having got the call from him for that effect, rose up on every side of me; and by holding up their hands, as had been agreed on, testified their adherence. I was not apprised beforehand of this design; and judging it a matter requiring due preparation, and not to be rashly entered upon, sat still, and joined not. By all the accounts I had of it, I judged the management thereof not suitable nor proportionable to the weight of the matter. Through the mercy of God, I found no ill effect of this piece of my conduct, at home, which I feared.
Some time after, being called to answer for himself before the presbytery, in matters unquestionably scandalous, whether right or wrong, alleged against him, he did most unwisely decline them, and separate. But I think, that, even though his separation had been warrantable, he ought, for the honour of God, and the cause of religion, to have appeared, and purged himself of these things to their face, in the first place. Hearing how matters were like to go betwixt him and the presbytery, I wrote to him, whom I always took for a good man; offering my best offices and advice, if he would give me a view of the state of his matters. The letter he received, but made me no return; and I never saw him since that time. A great many of the parish of Eskdale-moor joined him: the which, by reason of the neighbourhood, was another fountain of trouble and uneasiness to me, giving me another class of dissenters, servants coming in from thence to our parish; though I remember none of our congregation that went off to him, but one inconstant woman, who joined with his way for a time.
At first Mr. John Hephurn, head of an old and considerable party, Mr. John Gilchrist, minister of Dunscore, and he, joining together, formed a presbytery; which lasted very short while. At length his own party broke among themselves, and many of them left him: so that this day, though he still continues his schism, his affairs and reputation are in a sorry situation.
Amongst us who assisted in those days, as aforesaid, at Wamphray, was Mr. Thomas Hoy, minister at Annan. Him also, some time after, lodging a night in my house, I was at pains to convince of the unwarrantableness of the separation on account of the oath; but prevailed not. Howbeit, some time after, I heard with indignation, his taking of the oath itself: Such a propensity there is in human nature to run to extremes, and such a need of walking by a fixed principle of church-communion, established from the holy Scriptures.
On 30th August, continuing my ordinary, Hos. 14, I did withal return to explain the catechism; but began at the duty which God requireth of man. And judging the discovery of the exceeding breadth of the command to be of great importance, I did insist on the ten commands very largely; so that the sermons on them ended not till 28th August 1715, two years after this. Which brings to mind an occasional encounter, before our presbytery, with Mr. John Gowdie above mentioned; who happening to tell us of his preaching catechetical doctrine, shewed, that he had cursorily gone over the ten commands, as judging that best for the case of the people: I found myself obliged to declare before them all, that I was quite of another mind; the fullest unfolding of the holy commandment being necessary to discover the need of Christ, both to saints and sinners. But I have always observed narrow thoughts of the doctrine of free grace, to be accompanied with narrow thoughts of the extent of the holy law.
About this time I set myself to consider the mass-book, and the English service-book; between which I found a surprising agreement, several particulars of which I marked on the servicebook, which remains as yet among my other books. For the course of public affairs had taken such a turn, that from the year 1710 they had run straight towards the interest of the Pretender; and continued so to do, till, being brought to the point of full ripeness, it pleased the Lord suddenly and surprisingly to break the measures of the party, through the removal of Queen Anne by death 1st August 1714; so that King George had a peaceable accession to the throne, as much unexpected, as the Queen's death at the time foresaid. Meanwhile, at this time, matters had a formidable appearance, and a terrible cloud seemed to hang over the head of the nations, hastening to break. Papists and Jesuits were flocking hither from beyond seas; and things great and small were set a-going, to prepare people for receiving what was a-hatching. Sitting at meat in time of the synod at Kelso, in the house of a Presbyterian silly woman, I was surprised with, and filled with indignation at, the sight of the picture of Christ on the cross, hanging on the wall over-against me. Lodging, in time of a communion, in a certain house of some distinction, I got a loam basin to wash my hands in, with the Jesuits' motto in the bottom thereof, J.H.S. And many other such arts were then used to catch the people, while the great artifices for compassing the design were going on successfully. Withal, there were mighty fears of an intended massacre.
But national fasts were very rare, as they have been all along since the Union unto this day. Wherefore on 17th February 1714, we kept a congregational fast, upon the account of the aspect of affairs at that time, more particularly declared in our session's act thereanent, of the date 14th February 1714. I preached that day on Ps. 74: 19, "O deliver not the soul of thy turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked." Which sermon agreeable to the state of that time, being in retentis, may be consulted.
On the Sabbath immediately following, I entered, in my catechetical ordinary, on the second command; upon which I did for some time set myself to discover the evil of Popery, and of the English service. With respect to the former, I explained to the people the national covenant at large, judging the case of the time a sufficient call thereto. The latter I insisted on as particularly, and as much as I thought to be for edification, from the pulpit; yet not so much as I fain would have done; which was the occasion of the blank left in that part of my notes on the commands; the which, it seems, I had some thoughts of filling up afterwards, for my own satisfaction; which yet was never done.
The aforesaid copy of the Fourfold State having been revised by several ministers, I went in the summer to Edinburgh, with my dear friend Dr. Trotter, on purpose to speak with a printer on that head. And while I was there, I was free, willing, and resolved to venture it into the world. But a friend there, at that time a student, now a minister, advised to delay it upon the ground of the fear of the Pretender's coming in. This being so feasible, I could not in modesty refuse the advice: but after that, my courage in the case abated and sunk.
24th August.—This day the sacrament was administered. There were a hundred and three tokens given out to parishioners, whereof twenty-three to new communicants; and there were never so many communicants of this parish before. The work was begun on Thursday with a sermon on Amos 6: 1, which I believe drew the stool from under most of us; surely it did so to me. On the Saturday and Sabbath morning, the weather looked gloomy; but I had a most quiet resigned frame of spirit, with respect to it, leaving it on the Lord without anxiety. And it was a grey day, with some pleasant blinks. A little ere I went out, I was stung with the conscience of my neglect of self-examination, though I had solemnly done it on the Monday before, being our family-fast-day for this occasion. I had attempted it on Saturday's night, but was carried off. Let this be a lesson to me. In this case I took a short review of myself, as the time would allow; but that neglect stuck with me. I preached on Hos. 2: 19, which I had entered on 11th July. The rest of the ministers were well helped. I was not straitened for words in that sermon, and had some solid seriousness as to the success of it; yet I thought the Lord cast a cloud over me, and that the people seemed unconcerned. So in the midst of it I knew not what to do, fearing the people's weariness. I looked about, wishing in my heart that somebody would tell me whether to leave it or not: yet I went on to the second general head, being loath to leave it altogether, and passed only a twelfth part of the sermon; which was delivered after the action with more satisfaction to myself. Having consecrated the elements, and said, that they were no more to be looked on as common bread and wine, but as symbols of the body and blood of Christ; immediately I felt a great change on my spirit to the better, which made me speak with an unusual concern on my soul; and my natural spirits, that were low before, were raised, so that I had a new vigour for speaking. I blundered however in delivering the bread, saying, "This cup;" but I recovered myself, though not without difficulty, having much ado to fall upon the very words of institution, "Take, eat," etc. This was stinging and humbling, lest it might be an occasion of triumph to the wicked. I communicated at the fourth table, and thought I had faith, love, etc., in exercise; and there, with myself, gave up my wife, my children, one by one, by name, my servants, parish, etc., to the Lord. When I came in that day, the work being over, and began to look through what had passed, my soul was humbled in me, and much broken; for upon the whole I thought there was never less of God's presence with a communion-work here than that, except that recorded, p. 266. But God seasonably opened the mouths of some to speak, for His own praise and for my comfort: particularly Mr. O. desired me that night to thank God for the great things he had met with; adding (to my wife, who told me), that he was scarcely able to contain himself, and came in to the house. And she telling this to a gentlewoman, that person replied, There were more so than he; and that she heard an old professor say, What's this we meet with! that he had not seen such a thing for many years. This is not the first time God has done great things, and hid them from me in the time; for He is infinitely wise. The sermon I preached on this occasion, was afterwards published, under the title of The Everlasting Espousals: Providence thus quickly beginning to move, towards bringing forth of that work foresaid, in its due time.
On the morrow, a godly minister and I conversing about the work, he told me there were two expressions used by me at serving of the table that were offensive to some. From these, and the blunder, I got a plain lesson, to beware of mixing my own spirit with the Lord's Spirit. In these damps I unbosomed myself to my friend Mr. Wilson (for whom I bless the Lord), and he was useful to me. Let me learn to be humble, watchful, and dependent, while I think it goes well with me. I am persuaded they have great need to take heed to their feet that are let in within the vail; for He is a jealous God.
On the Tuesday having convoyed the minister some miles, Mr. Golden, at parting (as before also) had so expressed what he had felt in that (to me) overclouded sermon, that I was made to believe the Lord had owned it. And then my heart was opened to give Him the due thanks. And the effects of my believing it I found to be, 1. That I was thankful; 2. It humbled me, seeing it as a great debt upon me; 3. It kindled in my heart more desire after holiness. So retiring, by the way I poured out my soul before God, according to these impressions.
Wednesday. But this day the glory of that work was quite out of my eyes again, and I could not be thankful; but was confounded and sunk, when I looked back on it. I wondered at Mr. Colden's speaking as he did, on Monday's night, before all the company, concerning that work and me. I thought that whatever had been my mind of another, I could not have spoken so, before the person himself: and I have often wondered on such occasions. But now I see how needful these things are for me, and how by them the Lord indulgeth weak me, when I cannot see the thing, to be thankful for it, notwithstanding all these helps and props. One thing comforts me, that the Saturday's work had such influence on me, that it occasioned my uttering these words to the congregation, "I would fain hope God will do great things here to-morrow; He can do wonders with little noise," etc.
16th December.—One having a while ago desired a copy of my action-sermon on Hos. 2: 19, that he might publish it, and he having taken advice about it at Edinburgh, I set sometime apart this day for light from the Lord in that matter. I laboured some time in confessing of sin before the Lord, in renewing my covenant and renunciation. And two things were wondrous in my eyes. 1. The unalterableness of the covenant. I had a sweet view of it as a covenant which after many slips might be renewed. There is no renewing of the covenant of works, once broken; but this covenant will not break: one is welcome to renew it after backslidings. 2. That I had this opportunity without disturbance; whereas I had attempted it twice before, and by my unwatchfulness had marred it; whereby, though something was done, as on Tuesday last, yet the business was not carried through. Then I set myself to seek light from the Lord in prayer, and thought on the business: and considering that I was urged by a repeated call from that person, and that this is a fair way to try what acceptance the book may meet with if published, I resolved to attempt it. It was comfortable to me to think, that whatever have been the transgressions of my private walk, God has been very gracious to me in the public steps of my life.
3rd January 1715.—Having finished the sermon, I took up Dempster's Antiquities, to refresh myself, where I read something de expositione infants, that seemed to give light into Ezek. 16; and pursuing the thing, several thoughts offered themselves, which I cast into a paper with much satisfaction, and some design to insert them in the sermon. (N.B.—They are inserted in the printed sermon.) So this morning I was very easy as to the publishing of the sermon. But at night there came one whom I respect and value, and would have employed in the business; but in the holy providence of God he carried so strangely, with respect to the book, and this sermon too, that I was confounded, and quite discouraged in the design. However, I sent it to Mr. Wilson, seeing I had written it. He approved the motion of printing it; but withal told me, that the printers would hardly take such an interlined copy. Whereupon, though, by the foresaid discouragement still remaining with me, I had no heart for publishing it; yet I resolved, come what will, that I would transcribe it over again.
13th January.—I began to transcribe it; but on the 15th at night, while I was busy with it, there came an express to me, calling me to go to Dunse, to my brother a-dying. So I laid it aside, wondering at this next dash. I took it with me, and showed it to Mr. Brown; who did encourage me to publish it; and I think, if I had not met with him, I had not recovered that damp to the design given by the person aforesaid. So Providence made use of that my being called away from the work, to forward it, which it is likely had lain if that had not come.
I went off Sabbath afternoon, 16th January, after sermon, and returned next Saturday's night. My sermon was studied before, and so it was (except a very little) the last time I had occasion to be so abroad. So does the Lord encourage me to study. My brother grew better, while I was there; and, for my own use, I received an instruction and warning, and a check, from the dispensation.
26th January.—After the Queen's death, King George safely arriving, had a peaceable accession to the throne: for which cause there was a thanksgiving appointed to be observed 22nd January 1715. But at that time, I having been called to Dunse, as is above related, we could not observe it on the day appointed. Howbeit we kept it on the 3rd of February; which day I preached on Esther 9: 1, "Now when the king's commandment and his decree grew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them)."
6th February.—This day being the Lord's day, in the time of the first prayer, in the pulpit, one drew my sleeve; which put me into some disorder: quickly after, I heard a muttering about me; which struck me with terror: so, recommending the case to God, whatever it was, I closed the prayer. (N.B.—I think, upon reflection, I should have immediately stopped upon the first sign given, and known what the master was, ere I had gone further; for I could have no composure till I had done that, and that sign was a providential call, under which I knew not what might be.) Then I was told that one was a-dying at the park-foot, betwixt that and the water, little more than a stone-cast from the church. The congregation being set to sing a psalm, I went out; but he was dead ere I got to him. He was a strong old man, about seventy-six years old, who having come over the hills from Upper Dalgleish four miles a-foot, and having taken a drink of the water, and said he had left the rest about a quarter of a mile behind him, never spoke more, but fell down, gave two shivers, and died between the water and the western park of the globe. Thus coming to the church, he came to the churchyard: he came heartily and cleverly to his grave, instead of being borne. Lord, teach me so to count my days, as I may apply my heart to wisdom. Reflecting on my being so lately alarmed, and obliged to ride on the Lord's day, and this day again brought out of the pulpit, on the occasion of death, I thought it had a language to me, fearing the next might be a more home stroke.
10th February.—Having received letters desiring me to come to the presbytery, I went, contrary to my inclination; but out of conscience towards God, lest His cause by my absence should suffer any detriment, upon which account I durst not sit at home. The Lord made it a comfortable and happy journey: for not only was the business (the affair of Mr. J. D.) kept from going farther wrong; but the Lord honoured me to be the instrument of peace in the presbytery (which had been split the day before by protestations and counter-protestations), and brought that business to the desired issue, with respect to the presbytery's management of it. I have often found it good, to follow duty over the belly of inclination.
The aforementioned alarming dispensation led me, on the following Lord's day, to a new ordinary, 2 Cor. 5: 1, "For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved," etc., on which I dwelt till 22nd May, that, for the sacrament, I entered on Heb. 10: 22, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," etc., pressing the confidence of faith. On the same text was the action-sermon, as were also some sermons after the sacrament.
15th February.—In answer to the former calls of Providence, I spent this day in fasting, prayer, and meditation, with respect to my leaving of the world. I endeavoured to antedate my reckoning with my judge, acknowledging my sins, and applying to the Lord, through Christ's blood, for pardon. I made a comfortable review of my evidences for heaven. I neither could nor durst name what sort of death I would desire to die; but renewed my covenant with the Lord, with a view to eternity, leaning on that bed (my closet-bed) which perhaps may be my deathbed, taking the several quarters of it witnesses, that I had gone in under the covert of blood, the covert of the covenant, for death. I laid over my wife and children on the Lord. There was one little circumstance (the recording of which may be of some use), namely, that at night, about the latter end of this exercise, while I was at prayer, a dead-bell tinkled downstairs, the hearing of which surprising sound made some impression on me. It was gifted by Sir William Scot to the parish, and at that time it was, though not expected so soon, brought home by John Currie, who had been at Edinburgh, about the printing of the sermon, and brought home a specimen of it. In the remaining part of that week, I set in order my worldly affairs, by a will written with my own hand. And this, I think, was the first time I made my testament; the which I always after kept by me, but several times renewed, destroying the preceding one. And I reckon it was about this time that my contract with my wife was destroyed, with consent; the settlement being made more to her advantage.
On the 10th of March, John Currie being at Edinburgh to bring out the copies of the sermon, I met at Selkirk with him who had the oversight of the press; who surprised me with the news that the press was stopped, one of this parish having brought word to him for that effect, as from me or the publisher; which was a groundless mistake. This occasioned me thoughts of heart; the rather that the sacrament being to be celebrated at Edinburgh at that time, many there were desirous, on that occasion, to have had it; and it was thought this had marred the going off of many upon that occasion, some hundreds, as he expressed it. But on second thoughts I was satisfied in the favourable conduct of Providence; for had they come forth at such a nick for sale, I could not have judged of the acceptance of the book by that means. On the 26th I received a copy; but withal saw another fair occasion for the sale of them lost, though I had endeavoured to secure it. I could perceive no reason for it, but that so Providence saw it meet, and I believe for the same reason foresaid. And one delay of bringing the copies out came one week after another, till John Currie going in at length to bring them, there were few left to be brought out. It is the usual way of Providence with me, that matters of moment come through several iron gates. I could not but observe, that, by holy Providence unknown to me, at what time the press was stopped, I had no freedom in prayer about it, but several times forgot it, and wondered how I had forgot it. But when the work went on, it was not so. The publication of that sermon was my first-fruits in that kind. I had a comfortable account of its acceptance.
16th April.—I received a letter from Mr. Wilson, shewing me, that two persons had written to him from Edinburgh about the sermon (though he had written to none there about it); the one desiring him to deal with me for more, which it is heard are ready by me, and assuring of the esteem of the godly and judicious. The other's letter he sent to me, bearing, that it had there a very welcome reception from all having any sense of religion. "Seasonably" (says the author of the letter) "it came to my hand — at a time when I was under much deadness and hiding of the Lord's face; I was walking in darkness, and saw no light; yet by a secret power was kept from drawing rash conclusions while I was reading it. I can compare it to nothing more fitly than a cordial to a fainting spirit, or a ray of light shining in a dungeon. The surprising turn which it gave to my sunk spirit, is beyond what I can express. The heavenly eloquence and divine rhetoric which was in it, brought some transactions to my remembrance, which had been for some time out of sight, and I made a new. Amen to the marriage-covenant." This melted my soul in thankfulness and admiration of the goodness of God to vile me, and sent me to my knees immediately with these impressions. It also filled me with courage: and now I was well content to lie down and receive my lashes from other hands; for now I bad a pleasant view, how God would be beforehand with me, laying in that timely to prepare me for other sort of entertainment. And indeed I am well hired to abide all.
14th May, Saturday.—I spent a part of this day in humiliation, renewing my covenant with God, and prayer for the Lord's presence in the work of the sacrament of the supper to be celebrated here, last Sabbath of this month. The Lord was pleased to help me to confidence, believing in God as my God.
19th May.—Since Saturday last, I have had most sensible experience of the solid joy and peace, in believing God to be my God in Christ. I find it is a blessed means of sanctification. It strengthens to duty; for I have been helped in my work of visiting since that time. It nourishes love to the Lord; and consequently love to and desire of the thriving of His work in people's souls. It creates a sweet calm, and quiet of mind, in doubtful events; for I have been tried, and yet am with a prospect of the Lord's keeping back the one-half of my helpers in the work before me; but I have no anxiety that way. It sweetens other enjoyments, and carries above things which at other times are irritating, and create disgust. I have compared flashes of affection, with a calm sedate tender love to the Lord; and I prefer the latter to the former, and have been, and am, happy in it.
27th May, Friday.—In the time foresaid, I thought I would meet with a trial. It came just on the morrow, being my studyday. The text I had in view for the Sabbath was that, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." And I had a great desire to be at it, that my soul might dip into the sweetness of it. But though in this case I set about it, God bound me up, it would not do with me. I could neither go forward in it, nor come off from it. Thus I spent that weary day, praying, thinking, striving to keep up my confidence that the Lord would help. My confidence in the Lord was tried now; and though I got it kept up better than ordinary in such a case, for some time; yet at length it was brought to a low ebb, and almost exhausted. In this weary time I got a seasonable letter from my friend, shewing, my helpers were secured for me. So the Lord lightened my burden, while my strength was less, and also gave some new discovery that it is not in vain to trust Him. About eight o'clock at night, another text was given me, namely, Heb. 10: 22, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," etc. And then my heart was taken off the former. I was well guided to this, as pursuant to what I had been upon since the man's sudden death at the park-foot, 2 Cor. 5: 1, and agreeable to what the Lord had been secretly teaching me, by experience, before. I studied the sermon on it to-morrow, which I preached on the Lord's-day. On the Monday we kept the family-fast. I had not recovered my former frame; but, in reference to our prayers, was helped to believe that word Matt. 7: 7, "Ask, and it shall be given you," etc. I drove heavily in studying the communion-sermon. This day I had a sweet while in confidence on the Lord as my God, grasping the promise over the belly of felt foolishness.
1st June, Wednesday.—On the 29th of May the sacrament was celebrated here. All the three days there was some rain; but on the Lord's-day it was exceeding great, and greatest of all in the time of the tables; only it was fair weather in the time of the first two. Yet the Lord made it a great day of the gospel; assisted his ministers, and the people generally, to very much composure, though several went away for fear of the rising of the waters. It was somewhat discouraging to me, in respect of the disturbance it might create to the people; but I was helped to submit to it as a trial to them and me. I cried to the Lord in the morning-prayer, to preserve the people from bodily hurt; for there was a great wind with the rain; and I have not yet heard of any that was the worse of it; but some whom we suspected might be the worse, particularly a woman that had lately been ill of the flux, were well carried through safe. Being warned by experience formerly, I was helped to hold off from two rocks I split upon at the last sacrament. One was concerning self-examination: whatever was done in it on the Monday, being the family-fast day, I set about it on the Saturday's night, got a humbling view of sin, and a satisfying view of the grace of God in me. The other was the mixing of my own spirit with influences from heaven. The danger from this quarter had been frightful to me, and in secret I had been remarkably carried out in prayer against it, and for a solid frame of spirit, and a feeling of what I was to speak. And indeed the Lord heard me, preserving me from that unhallowed mixture in the sermon, in some measure, and giving an unusual measure of solid, serious feeling, in the rest of the work, especially the invitation (where influences began to rise higher), the prayer for consecration of the elements, and the discourse at the table. In the sermon I had not the desired feeling. The elements after consecration being declared to be no more common bread and wine, but sacred symbols of the body and blood of Christ, I felt in my spirit a sensible change accordingly; I discerned the sacramental union of the signs and the thing signified, and was thereby let into a view of the mystical union. I saw it, I believed it, and I do believe it this day. I do not remember myself ever to have been so distinct in the view and faith of this glorious mystery; and that with application, for I do believe that Christ dwells in me by His Spirit, and I in Him by faith. And the objection, How can this be? is silenced. I feel the sacrament of the supper to be a divine ordinance; I see it, and believe it. This is the second time I have most remarkably felt that change on my spirit, upon the declaring as above said. May I never miss to declare, as said is, in the administration of that ordinance. In partaking I was helped to the exercise of faith, took God for my God in Christ, claimed Him as my God, and laboured to improve the claimed interest, by believing the promises of the covenant, which was the scope of the action-sermon. My wife with the child in her belly, and the other children by name, I gave away to the Lord with myself. And having been in fear about my wife's death in the bringing forth of that child, I had there, in that solemn approach, a concern on my spirit about that case; but could not see it dangerous, whatever it may turn to after. This made me to hope, that a stolen dint (with profoundest reverence be it spoken) would not be taken of me. But yesterday, praying in these terms, in that case, that the Lord would not take a stolen dint, I durst not abide by that petition; thinking with myself, what if God keep the tormenting impressions of her death from off my spirit, is that unkind? So I knew not what to make of that petition, but left it to the Lord, to do as He saw best. My wife parted with the ministers the same day as never to see them more. At parting with Mr. Colden, he desired there might be no discouragement in her case. I told him, I could not see the danger; and he told me, it was so with him too, with respect to the sermon was more than two hours long, which I think was too much. A certain gentleman said, it was above his capacity; upon which a minister (Mr. Colden) observing the need professors have to be better informed in the doctrine of the gospel, moved, that I should write practically on the doctrine of justification; which inclined me somewhat to publish the sermons on Phil. 3: 3. A godly countryman told me, that he had not so much of that sermon to carry away as ordinary. I resolved to be shorter; and learned from these things, that however my gift seems to be plain, I have need of dependence on the Lord, even for plainness in treating of gospel-mysteries. Satan was at my heels ere that work was over. Being surprised to hear singing of psalms in the kirk, and stunned to see the people running away into it, leaving the solemn work we were at; so that the rump of the meeting seemed only to remain, being in the south-west side of the churchyard: having sent one, and after that another, to stop that disorder, and it continuing still; I went and put a stop to it, with a sharpness, which no doubt irritated the brother who was the cause of it. So we became snares to one another. And so quickly did my spirit go without bounds. I knew God was not the author of this confusion; but the way of my spirit in removing it was, and is, humbling upon reflection. It hung about me most heavily, till, the whole day's work being over, I had occasion to shew him the sorrow of my heart, that Satan should so soon have got advantage against us, and to intreat him to join with me in withstanding the progress of this flame that the tempter had kindled: and hereunto the good man shewed all readiness. I have sometimes observed the Lord's being very gracious to me in matters of public management: but the keenness of my spirit, at the last synod, in the case of Mr. J. D. aforesaid, and in this, shews me, that my natural modesty and diffidence is not a sufficient guard to my spirit, in public appearances, though they be very few. To Thee, then, O Lord, I will look for it. That day's work was concluded with a most savoury sermon, by that brother, though he was out of humour when called to it. So the Lord can outshoot the devil in his own bow. When I was about to make this review, I found my spirit out of order: and finding the disorder of my natural spirits contribute thereto, I went out, and walked, to refresh myself; then returned, and set to the work. It is hard to play, when the instrument is not in tune.
The week before the sacrament Satan stirred up the spirits of some neighbours against the work and me, apprehending there would be a great gathering, whereby their corns would suffer. And one of my few elders (from whom I have little help) was at least a silent witness to the rage and spite. But the cloven foot was too visible, to discourage much. In a little time after the sacrament, the same person acted with the same spirit of spite against me in another case. However, there was no complaint of the corns; whence I may know there was no ground, though indeed the company was great. At this time there were ten tables, though we use to have but about seven; and the tables were longer than ordinary, and people came from a far distance.
Having been taken with the design of Cross's Taghmical Art aforementioned, I would fain have understood it; but could never reach it to my satisfaction. The nature of the subject treated of, the indistinct way of the author's writing, and the false printing of the book, which was to a pitch, made the difficulty insuperable to me. What pains I was at before and about this time, to understand that book, and to gather the author's meaning, by comparing passages, may be seen in an octavo paper-book, whereof forty-four pages were written for that end, consisting mostly of excerpts, and partly of my own reasonings and conjectures thereon. But all to very little purpose; so that at length I laid the matter aside.
But the kind reception the Everlasting Espousals met with, whereof 1200 copies being printed, were mostly dispatched by the end of May, recovered my courage for publishing the Fourfold State, which had sunk as aforesaid. And after some time spent in prayer about it and my wife's case, on 16th June I began on that view to transcribe it over again. The acceptance of the sermon appeared in the gathering aforesaid; and that very thing apprehended was the rise of all that rage above mentioned. I had encouraging testimonies about it, from the feeling of some godly ministers.
7th June.—This day the affair of Mr. J. D. aforesaid, which lay weighty on my spirit, had a happy issue, in a committee of the synod. And having laid it over on the Lord before I went into the church, my heart was filled with thankfulness in the issue. My spirit also in the management of the matter, so far as I was concerned, was kept from what I was afraid of. It is good to keep the way of duty: for though we were generally ill looked on by others in that matter, the Lord brought forth our righteousness as the noon-day; and there was not a man had a mouth to open in the cause that we were set against, ere all was done. I desire from this to learn to act faith in such matters, and with confidence in the promises to recommend them to the great Master of the vineyard.
8th July.—This day Mrs. Martin, spouse to Bailie Martin in Hawick, tenant in Crosslee, was buried. She came to this parish at Whitsunday, was present at the fast before the sacrament, but that night was seized with indisposition, which so increased that she had no access to be witness to more of that work. I saw her on the Tuesday after, much broken with that dispensation; for she was a godly woman, and minded to have partaked. Her case grew worse and worse, till she sickened unto death, having a bloody flux; in the time of which she miscarried; and the flux continuing, on the tenth day from the birth of the child in the seventh month, she died. In the time of her sickness, on many accounts, her case lay very near my heart, and I was full of hopes that the Lord had not sent the good woman to die here. Her coming hither was by several in this parish looked on with an evil eye, according to their uncharitable, selfish disposition, etc. So that foolish I thought the honour of God was almost engaged for her life. And her death was an astonishing dispensation to me, calling to eye sovereignty, which challengeth a latitude. Besides, my hopes in her case miscarrying, quite perplexed my hopes as to the case of my own wife. I had been preaching on contentment for some Sabbaths; and Sabbath the 17th of this month, being our marriage-day, and her reckoning out on the 15th, that 17th day was of a terrible prospect to me. Wherefore yesterday I gave myself unto prayer, to intreat the Lord for her, and to provide for the worst; and came away with that, namely, That God will do the best.
On Saturday, 9th July, my wife had some pains, and also on the Sabbath morning; at which time I had thoughts of sending for the midwife. I went to prayer, which produced some reluctancy to it; and thereafter my wife shewing her unwillingness, I easily yielded, being the Lord's day. Afterwards in prayer my heart was fully calmed in that matter, that all would be well for that time. And so it was. But next morning betwixt twelve and one I sent off the lad for the midwife, who was at the distance of about eighteen miles.
27th July.—On Friday the 15th of that month, my wife was delivered of a daughter, about one after noon, our last child, called Katherine; who, on the 20th, was baptized by my friend Mr. Wilson. The day before, I studied my sermons for the Lord's day, and giving some directions against discontent, some things came so pat to my feared case, that I was astonished somewhat with it. I was brought in that matter to a resignation unto the will of God; and having been helped, by the sermons on contentment, to believe that all that God does is best done (which I bless God has now, for a considerable time, been much on my spirit), I often left it on the Lord in these terms, that He would do the best, without determining one way or other. And behold He has heard my prayer, and hitherto wrought the deliverance very graciously. I see the way of trusting in God at all times, with positive resolutions not to distrust Him, whatever He will do with us (which was much the language of my heart, and lips too, at that time), is the true way to rest, in the time of doubtful events, and also to get one's will. I myself have been several times, on this occasion, taking a view of death; and I have found, that faith in God through Christ makes another world not quite strange. I have seen so much of late, how God baffles hopes and fears, that my spirit seems disposed to leave all to the Lord; et nec sperare nec extimescere, sic exarmaveris; — neither to fear nor hope, but according to God's promises and threatenings.
Being invited to assist at the sacrament in Morbattle and Maxton, the one immediately after the other, which appeared inconvenient for me; the which Mr. Wilson considered; but I wrote to him, that I was content the Lord should lead, and I follow; and therefore that he should not incommode the work for me. And I saw in end, that He guided better than I could, if I had had my will. So I went from home 5th August, and returned not till 18th August. When I was going away, and to leave my wife lately delivered, and my family, I was helped to apply the promise made to the Israelites going up to the solemn feasts, with respect to the safety of their families left behind; and it stuck with me while I was abroad. And indeed it was accomplished to me far beyond my expectation; being, upon my return, quite surprised with the case of my wife's health, which had advanced to the degree I could not have looked for; there being something preternatural in her case when I left her, which I judged could not miss to weaken her exceedingly; but the event was quite otherwise. That day I rode to Morbattle, I met with a man providentially, and the water being great beyond expectation, I got a fright by it, as it was; but had I been alone, the event might have been dangerous. I preached at Morbattle on Saturday the 6th, and Sabbath the 7th of August, from Rev. 21: 22, "And I saw no temple there." On the Monday two of the elders there desired a copy of the sermons transcribed, insinuating their design to print them; which I took to consideration. On Wednesday thereafter I preached in Oxnam parish; on the Thursday, Saturday, and Lord's day afternoon, at Maxton; on the two last days from the text just mentioned, Rev. 21: 22; and for some time had thoughts of preparing the whole for the press. I hope the Lord owned all these sermons, but that on the Saturday at Maxton seemed to me most countenanced of God. For my private case, I had not guided well at Morbattle. So on the Thursday thereafter, in Mr. Wilson's prayer and confession, I got a broad view of the corruption of my nature; which afterward in secret proceeded to that, that I thought it needless (so to speak) to confess particulars, being ready to cry, Guilty, to whatsoever the broad law of God forbiddeth. But after that, my running issue (as Mr. Wilson termed it in his action-sermon) broke out, so that on Lord's day morning at Muirhouselaw I was in a dreadful case, in the fields there. At which time, in the great bitterness of my spirit, that word came, 1 Cor. 6: 9, 10, 11, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." I walked up and down with the Bible in my hand opened at that place, holding it up towards heaven, as God's own word, pleading and improving it, for the cleansing of my vilest soul. O how seasonable a support was it to my fainting soul! Mr. Wilson's great sermon of the good news brought in the gospel, from Luke 2: 10, was as balm to a wounded soul, and good news from a far country. And there I put all in Christ's hand.
While I was abroad, the news of the invasion came, and a bond of association contrived by some honest people at Edinburgh, to resist with armed force, came to my hand for our parish, and the whole country was astir that way. But on the Monday morning 15th August an express came to me, calling me to Dunse, to my brother's burial; and on the morrow there I found, that the proceeding in that association was stopped from court, the invasion being found to be laid aside for the time. Here I saw the favourable conduct of Providence, in carrying and keeping me so long abroad: for I had good ground to think, that our parish would have given the association but very cold entertainment; not from any other cause but their selfish principle and disposition. As to the invasion, I was afraid of myself, for that I could not be afraid of it.
At these two communions I preached, as I have already said, on Rev. 21: 22, a text that for many years I had in view. When I began it, I expected little of it but a sermon for Sabbath afternoon. But all that about the preciousness of the ordinances came forth to me in the breaking.
Now the oath of abjuration was in hand again, being to be imposed with some alterations, which I saw. Being much hurried with business after I came home, but getting one free day, I set myself to seek the Lord in that matter, and took it again under consideration. The result of all which was, that it seemed to me like the house with the leprosy in the walls, under the law, that nothing could cleanse but the pulling down of the walls. So a meeting of nonjurors being appointed at M. 30th August, I went thither, purely out of conscience towards God, to discharge my conscience in that matter. And Providence opened my way to it through iron gates; for when I took my horse, I knew not what I was to do, to go, or come back; but the Lord cleared my way.
About the latter end of August, the rebellion having broke out, the King's army began to draw towards Stirling. On the 28th I closed my sermons on the ten commandments in the forenoon, which were begun about two years before, and which I often feared, through the difficulty of the times, I should not have had occasion to finish. I bless God who led me to that subject, where I met with things, which otherwise, through the course of many years' preaching, would hardly have come in the way. It gives great ease to my heart upon reflection. In the afternoon, for the case of the times, I entered on that text, Isa. 32: 2, "And a man shall be as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Next Sabbath, being 4th September, in my sermon, I took occasion, not only to shew the people their danger, but to excite them to a due concern for religion and liberty, and to be ready to act in defence thereof. But not very long after, I found that all was but as the sounding again of the mountains, the lying stories of enemies so prevailing, that the reflection of some that seemed to be somewhat was, that I was more afraid than I needed. Finding the heart-staying doctrine of that text was unseasonable, because not needed (I mean not to make no exception at all, I believe it was seasonable to some, though very very few), I was obliged to cut it short; and on Sabbath 25th September, entered on Amos 4: 12, "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." And upon this I dwelt for several months of the public confusions. Sabbath, 2nd October, in the morning, I received a letter from one of the lieutenant-deputes for our shire, with an intimation for all betwixt sixteen and sixty to rendezvous at Selkirk on the 6th, and desiring me to send the roll of these to the review. I called for one reckoned the most judicious of our elders, and proposed to him a meeting of the parish at the kirk on the 4th; which he quickly agreed to. I desired him to speak with some others, and give me notice ere I went into the pulpit, if it was their mind that the parish should meet, that I might warn them from the pulpit. The intimation being read by the precentor, I exhorted accordingly; and having received notice, as above said, I intimated the meeting. When they met on the 4th, I told them, I would not take it on me to make a roll of the fencible men, but proposed to them to make it themselves. Accordingly it was done, and I gave them my roll; out of which they made another, casting out and putting in as the meeting thought fit: but I wrote it. When this work begun, I foreboded my ease in this place (which never was great) to be at an end; they usually wreaking themselves on the ministers as the cause of all public evils. I was not out in my conjectures: for accordingly they gave themselves the loose, and that very night I heard of burning my house, etc., upon the account of that day's work. However, on the morrow I drew up an address for them, and went towards Selkirk, the place of the review, to help them all I could. Next day, within two miles of the place, several of the parish being in company, the elder aforesaid, who also was present at the making of the roll, fell on me bitterly in that matter. And there was not a man that had a mouth to open in my behalf, in all the company, except one servant, who (as he told me) spoke to him secretly: but another told me, he heard me reflected on upon that score. I saw myself hardly bestead, and evil rewarded for good: and therefore desired them to meet me in the town, further to consider of the matter. There while I was sitting with them, in great distress, not knowing what to do, and not having as yet entered on the business, I was called to speak with one in another room; with whom conversing, being a brother of the presbytery, I found the review of his parish had been made without a roll. Thus Providence most seasonably discovered a way to extricate me out of this perplexity; and calling for the roll from the clerk, I secretly burnt it, shewing them I would rather undergo censure from others, than fill their hearts with prejudice against me, to whom I must preach next Lord's day; and giving them the address, I left them, and went to the presbytery, which (unknown to me before) met that day; for I had no other design in the town that day, but to see their business managed equitably. The issue was, all the rest of the parishes called thither that day were reviewed, and the rolls produced: ours was called; but none were in the town when called, except a few, none of whom answered.
The southern army of rebels being a-forming, several went through our parish in their way to the appointed place. On Saturday, 8th October, their general, with seven or eight with him, lodged at C..m and C..e, and the standard with them, which fell as they were riding by T. barn-yard. On the Monday's night lodged the Earl of Winton at M..p, and about as many with him. On the Tuesday, while I was at T. I saw seventeen pass by. The water being exceeding great, I was in fear they would lodge about the kirk all night. So being in concern for my family, I made after them; but being come to R. I saw them on the other side, and was thankful. On the Thursday we were alarmed with their new army's being at Moffat: and at night a brother whom they had taken prisoner by the way, but dismissed again, came to my house, and told us, they were on their way to Dumfries. Which made us fear blood there that night, the country about having gone into the town to resist them. The rebels not daring to attack them, turned eastward. But all this did not awaken us.
The highlanders having landed at Northberwick the latter end of this week, an intimation was made on Sabbath, the 16th, by the lieutenant-depute's orders, intreating all to meet at Kelso, with their best arms, on the morrow, to receive orders, so as the country might be defended. And I had a letter from one of them, to come on the head of our parish, to the place where our shire was to meet, that they might go together to Kelso, being I was to go to the synod, which met on Tuesday the 18th. I exhorted the people, and read to them Prov. 24: 11,12, "If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain: if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not: doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works? " Judg. 5: 14-23, "Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people: out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah: even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou among the sheep-folds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the seashore, and abode in his breaches. Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Tanaach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money. They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength. Then were the horse-hoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones." I went off on Monday, but not one person more out of the parish; nay, I could not have so much as an elder to go to the synod. The rebels who were at Hawick on the Lord's day, were expected on the Monday at Selkirk; so I knew not whether I could get to Kelso or not. However, I resolved, if possible, to be there. And from that time the Lord graciously gave me an unusual courage, which continued with me always till the danger was over, and I came home; and then my spirit returned to its ordinary. I met with no trouble that day, nor did the rebels come to Selkirk at that time.
On Tuesday the 18th, when I went into Kelso, the horse were out to observe the enemy, and the town was looking for their approach to attack them, for they were at Jedburgh the night before. People from all corners, and from our neighbouring parish of Yarrow particularly, had come in to the help of the Lord against the mighty; which made me ashamed, considering that there was none of ours there. The thoughts of the synod's meeting, and the sermon, were given over for that day at least, in respect of these circumstances; and it cost Mr. Wilson and me no little struggle ere we could obtain them; which at length, with much difficulty, we did, about three in the afternoon, being desirous to be found in the way of duty, whatever should happen. The synod appointed a committee to draw up a warning against the present rebellion; who meeting that night, and discoursing a little on it, left it on me to prepare a draft thereof: but I refused it, not daring to undertake it, from a real persuasion of my unfitness for it. So when the synod met next day, there was nothing done in that affair. Whereupon the synod appointed Mr. Ramsay and me forthwith to withdraw, and bring in one; which, with much reluctancy, for my own part, I obeyed. So we brought in a paper; in the framing of which, it was acknowledged, with the no small joy of several brethren, that the Lord had honoured me to do good service to the church. It passed with little difficulty, in respect of the present circumstances. O that I could learn from this, not to shift occasions of doing service, when I am called thereto, though it may appear a burden too heavy for my shoulders! The synod rising that day, I came off in the afternoon; but immediately my horse failed; and with much difficulty getting to Mackerston, I was obliged to hire another there to carry me to Maxton. It was as plain to me, as if written with a sun-beam, that God was, by that, contending with me for a heart-sin hid from all the world, namely, the misgiving of my treacherous heart, upon those pieces of service the Lord honoured me with at the synod: for tho' Mr. Wilson's zeal did excite me much to the former, and the cowardly weakness of my heart frighted me from the latter, till I was in some sort compelled to it; yet when they were done, such was the base weakness of my spirit, that I could not carry even under the same, but wofully miscarried through vanity, as if poor I had been somewhat. But thanks be to a good God, that quickly pursued me, till I was laid low again. This is not the first time, that, on such occasions, I have fallen into this shameful sin, and quickly have been rebuked for it. I desire, in time coming, to watch on such occasions, if ever I have more, which God may justly deny me. The enemies passed on Tuesday toward Northumberland, not coming near Kelso. So the people dropped away. When I came home, I found, that a report having come that day I went away, that the rebels were coming down Tima, several were in no small consternation and confusion: but by kind Providence, it was kept from my wife's knowledge till the fright was over; wherein I could not but observe the Lord's hand eminent. The army aforesaid having joined the Northumberland rebels, and the highlanders having come from Lothian, and all joined together, they came to Kelso on Saturday the 22nd.
Sabbath, 23rd October, I read the paper aforesaid, according to appointment, before the congregation; enlarged on the particulars, and laid before them the singularity of their carriage, in the present conjuncture; which was the more heavy to me, in respect of my circumstances concerning the oath. This week one came running, and another riding full speed to me, telling me the highlanders were at Thirlestane; whereupon presently I went up the brook, and then towards the head of the hill, my family being in great distress, expecting to be plundered. A little after, one came and told me, it was a false alarm; but in my eyes it was a kind providence that I was tried with a false alarm, before I should get a true one. Next Sabbath, being the 30th, upon a report that the rebels were coming our way toward the west, I was advised to set watches in time of sermon. Accordingly one was set on E. hill, another on R. hill. The Lord gave a calm within, and there was no disturbance from without. Sabbath, 6th November, an order from the general, inviting men to the King's service, was read. I sat till it was done; but knowing it would be in vain as to us, as it was, I said nothing. The issue of it was, that I found I had the concern of religion in the war to teach again: which gave occasion to these notes in the Sermons, p. 72,2 App. No. 2.
13th November, Sabbath.—The which day the battle of Dumblane was fought; and that day also they fought at Preston, beginning on the Saturday; but it was the Monday at noon ere all was over. The said day an order was read for our parish to set out four militia-men. The letter about it came not to me, till I was in the pulpit: but the sermons were so pat to the emergent, that not having the desired effect, they proved irritating; which shortly after I felt. Now they could shift no longer; so they went about it, not owning me in the least in it, nor I them. Only notes of the sermon were invidiously used against me. The four men they hired all out of the parish, except one, who had been a while in it. Masters and servants, and old men, all paid alike 5s. 6d. sterling, which occasioned great clamour. And being singular in this, beyond all their neighbours, the managers were ashamed of it. My servant being called among the rest, I found means to shew them, that I thought he was not obliged to pay. But about the 22nd or 23rd of November, a constable, with three militia-men, came to my house, and, by orders, they said, from a principal heritor of the parish, demanded the militia-money for my servant, and my son (not fourteen years of age); and, failing him, for myself. And they shewed me the roll, wherein I saw my son and servant's name. I told them, that I regarded no such orders. Thus my shewing them their duty, was resented with sufficient contempt. The servant paid. That day I left them at Selkirk, I made an overture to the presbytery, that ministers should contribute to the raising of men for the support of the government; which being fallen in with by them, was ordered to be laid before the synod; and I spoke to a man with that view. But the synod, at that time, saw it not needful to go into it. That morning I went off to the synod, I did secretly advise Tushilaw to call the heads of the parish (seeing I was so unacceptable to them in these matters), and counsel them to look to themselves and offer some men to the government voluntarily. But this advice was rejected by him. So I would heartily have given of my money in a suitable way; but to be compelled thereto, and that by them, was what I could not comply with.
Being wrestled out of breath with the parish, in this time it began to sit down on my spirit very much, beyond what it had done formerly, that I was very unfit for them, and that they would require a man of another temper. And the first day of December being the last day for the oath, after which I could not preach more with the countenance of authority according to law, I began to be very apprehensive, that my work in this place was near an end. And several things concurred to the strengthening of it. On the last Sabbath of November, being the 27th, I fell on that part of the text, namely, preparation for trials, which, though the main thing I had in view when I chose that text, yet providence kept me off till then, several things coming forth in the breaking, very seasonable. When I was about to study that sermon, consulting former notes, I was somewhat moved to find, that that was the last subject I handled at Simprin before the farewell-sermon. 8th November was the first diet for examination, which day proved so stormy, that I could not get out. On the 10th, in another place, I had a diet, where I was attended but with one man, and a few women and children. In other three places after, it was not very much better. My wife was much of the same apprehension as I, and observed that I preached as when I was to leave Simprin. My getting through the ten commands looked like my getting through those subjects I was on in the last months I was in that place. And my present circumstances answered to the uneasiness I had from neighbours, ere I left that place. What the Lord's design in these things is, I know not yet: but in my circumstances they could hardly miss to make some impression.
1st December.—Being the last day for taking the oath, I spent some time in fasting and prayer, I found my courage for suffering was not such as on the former occasion of this oath. Though I could not ward off the thoughts of that foresaid, yet I desiderated such an impression of the thing as might make me speak to them as about to leave them; therefore I begged to be led of God, whether I saw or not, as He had led me to my amazement, for some time past, and so left it on Him. At night my natural spirits being sunk, I was sore broken and discouraged, seeing the law so hard upon the one hand, and the parish on the other. This held me under for three days following. That same night, I think, the Lord made my wife, being sick, and unable to converse, to speak two words in season to me. I told her, that I found I had not courage for suffering, etc. Her answer was, You need it not yet. My heart, said I, is alienated from this place. She answered, It seems there is need for it. This matter of the oath I altogether kept up from the people, looking for no sympathy, by the discovery of it, but affliction upon my affliction, if they should know of it, as I got the last time I had this trial. Some time before the last sacrament, being asked news, I told the elder aforesaid, it was said the abjuration-oath would be imposed again. His answer was, "I think we must even let you all do as ye like, and strive to know Christ and Him crucified;" as if we had been seeking it, or had no conscience, but as guided by them.
4th December, Sabbath.—Thus shattered and broken in body and spirit, I preached my first sermon in my new circumstances; but recovered somewhat ere I came out of the pulpit. That very same day, Mr. Taylor, who has made a new schism, preached in Eskdalemoor, got several of this parish to hear him, and those such as were not wont to wander, whatever number he had of others formerly of another temper. At night I heard of two new deserters said to be broke off from me, one whereof I was told broke off on account of my meddling in the rolls aforesaid. The burthen of the parish lies on me alone, having no tolerable support of my interest in it, from any. And the word not having efficacy on people's consciences, and those of the schism being in every corner of it, it is little wonder poor I am unable to stem the tide.
I have for some time been much afraid of being cast over the hedge; but otherwise an honourable discharge from Him who sent me hither, has often been beautiful in my eyes. But when I think on leaving them, the case they will apparently run into in these circumstances, is terrible to me. So I am tossed as from one sharp rock upon another every way.
The conduct of Providence in leading me in my preaching, in this place, has often been remarkable; but never more so than of late amidst these discouragements. Since the 4th of September that I preached first to stir up the people as above said, what day the lecture fell, Jer. 4, where we had a most lively description of the calamities of war, etc., I have often been amazed to see the Lord leading me in lectures and sermons, in my ordinary, so pat to the dispensations of the day, as they fell out one after another, and to my own case with the parish, that I could not but say, This is the finger of God. The Sabbath after the rendezvous at Selkirk, the lecture fell Jer. 9; the Sabbath after the victories, Jer. 15; the Sabbath after the oath, Jer. 17; and few days there were, wherein was not something most seasonable in them, as may appear by comparing what is noted above with the order of the chapters, allowing one to each Sabbath. As for the sermons, I have dated that before the battles, 6th November, and that on the very day of the battles, 13th November. This has been no small stay and support to my heart.
As to the Fourfold State, though, the rebellion breaking out, I saw there was no access to publish it, yet I went on (as the time would allow), and by the 21st of November had the three first states transcribed, minding to do no more till I see what comes of that. I have often and again committed it to the Lord, and for preservation particularly that day foresaid, if He have any use for it. For now it has been, and often is heavy to me, that the season of publishing it is slipt; and the confusion of the times has made me afraid of the losing of the copy; and, to my apprehension, the fittest season for publishing it is gone. Only I know the Lord has before this served His own holy wise ends, by my folly, cowardice, and bastard-modesty, in His cause. I have formerly related how the design was stopped when I went into Edinburgh, to get it put to the press. It was indeed an ungrateful advice given to me in the time; but the thing being so feasible, I thought I could not in modesty resist it. The kind reception the printed sermon got, recovered my courage and resolution for the book; though some professors of this parish, my constant hearers, thought it not enough to slight that sermon when printed, but not obscurely shewed their grudge and indignation against it, on no other reason I can divine, but that they grudge anything tending to my reputation. In the transcribing, several things are left out, with a design to shorten it, some few things put in, scripture-texts filled up that were only cited before, a great many expressions altered, and the copy divided into chapters or sections, or what else may be thought meet to call them. And for these causes I undertook the transcribing of it. It was a remark of Mr. Flint's on the state of grace, that the texts cited were often not filled up. And an observe of Mr. Hallyburton's, in the Memoirs of his life, namely, That when he found the word had done good, it was usually God's own word in the scripture, brought in in his sermons, carried that remark home on my conscience which Mr. Flint had made. And by this means I suppose it will be found little shorter, if anything at all, than formerly. I heard no more of the sermons at Morbattle, the rebellion breaking out soon after.
In the first week of January 1716, I was, by the good hand of God upon me, moved yet again, to attempt inquiring into what Mr. Cross calls the Taghmical Art, viz., the sacred stigmatology, or accentuation of the Hebrew Bible. And having by prayer addressed the Father of lights expressly on that particular, He was graciously pleased to help me afterwards therein, to my great satisfaction. And I came to be persuaded of its being of so great use for understanding the holy Scriptures, that, it being a time of great confusions, I was satisfied I might have full peace within myself, to be found by public troubles in the study thereof.
And here began the most busy time of my life, which continued while my strength lasted.
16th January.—Being on my way to Edinburgh, on the account of a project on foot for clearing the nonjurors to the government, daylight failed us between the Craig and Blackhouse, there was a drift in our face, and we were in fear of wandering; yet came safe to Blackhouse, almost senseless with the stress. While I went up that burn, walking, not daring to ride, that word, "Lord, Thou preserves man and beast, how precious is Thy grace! Therefore in shadow," etc., was sweet and encouraging. There was no proceeding in the journey for the storm: so coming back again on the morrow, I wondered how we had got through in the night in that case, having so much ado with it in the daylight.
After I had ended my ordinary on Amos 4: 12, "Prepare to meet thy God," etc., before I had access so much as to enter on another, there began a distress in our parish, by a storm, such as they had not felt for forty-two years before. And this led me to a new ordinary, viz. Rom. 8: 22, "For the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now." I entered on it 22nd January, and continued till 4th March. The Lord's day was such, that but few could come out. I had once thoughts of taking another subject; but the discourse being so seasonable, and believing that He who had given me that, could give me more, I resolved to preach it, however few should hear it. So to a few in the house I delivered it with much satisfaction.
Since, by reason of the woful unconcernedness of the people in the public cause, I could not appoint a congregational fast for the King’s army, for the Lord's help to them, I had no confidence to move for one upon the account of the storm, which was our private cause in a special manner, and heavy to the parish, and by which I saw the Lord was pleading against us on account of our unconcernedness about the public cause. Therefore, on the morrow after, being the 23rd, I kept a family-fast for both, and, as to myself in particular, for the divine assistance in the study of the Hebrew accentuation. And being helped to confidence in the Lord as my God, I was made the more freely to lay out my requests before Him. As to the study of the Hebrew accentuation, nobody, considering what pains I had been at to understand Mr. Cross's book, and that the Hebrew Bible was my delight, will doubt but by this time I had some notion of that accentuation, however lame, dark, and confused: and I resolved to put in writing what I thought I had reached of it, to the end I might not forget it.
2nd February.—We kept a fast by order of the presbytery. The Lord heard the prayers of His people; and on the Saturday thereafter, the thaw began. The storm aforesaid was followed with an extraordinary mortality in our parish, such as none, I could hear of, pretended to remember of the like therein: and I heard of no such thing neither, in the places about. My dear child Katherine died among the rest. In April the mortality ceased.
22nd February.—Last Lord's day being quite out of case ere I went into the pulpit, I prayed to the Lord; and remarkably He heard me, and made all right beyond expectation. I have been most comfortably surprised with discoveries of the Lord's mind in His word of the Hebrew text, which He has been pleased to make to me by means of its accentuation. Particularly, the discovery of the true sense of that passage, Gen. 49: 10, by that means, did so affect, strike, and transport me, that it did most sensibly affect my very body, and that from head to foot. And by the light into the Lord's word so given me, I have found my soul sanctified, and made to love the Lord. This makes me to account the better of these titles of the law, as divine. By this means I am persuaded, that these accents are the key to the true version and sense of the Hebrew text.
21st March.—This day we spent some time in family humiliation and prayer, on the account of the death of our youngest child Katherine, who departed on the 12th instant; and the hand of the Lord still on Thomas and Alison by the chincough; also for the state of the public; and as to myself, for my study of the accentuation. That child was very comfortable to me; but I bless Him I was helped to part with her; and saw and believed much of the Lord's goodness in that dispensation. Coming home from Selkirk on the 2nd instant, and thinking on the time of the land's trial, I had two main questions as to my family. The one was the case of that dear child, the other the then case of my wife. I dare not say I was faithless as to either, but believed God could see to them very well in the worst of my circumstances. As soon as I came home, I found the Lord was in His way to answer the last; and shortly after the other was hid. I never had such a clear and comfortable view of the Lord's having other use for children than our comfort; for which ends He removes them in infancy; so that they are not brought to the world in vain. I saw reason to bless the Lord, that I had been made the father of six children, now in the grave, and that were with me but a very short time; but none of them lost; I will see them all at the resurrection. That clause in the covenant, "And the God of thy seed," was sweet and full of sap. The mortality in our parish is not over yet, though I hoped my child had closed it: but just while I was writing this, I heard of the death of a mother of four small children, who I am told has not been well these twenty days, but never lay; was better yesterday, but carried off at night by a sickness, so far as I could understand, not above two hours long. Alas! we have provoked our God.
By the awful voice of Providence continuing, I was led to Zech. 12: 12, "And the land shall mourn, every family apart," etc., on which I dwelt from 11th March till 20th May; and for some time after, on Ps. 126: 5, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." Upon the former of these I pressed the duty of personal and family fasting, among other things. And this was not without fruit. I knew that some were engaged in these duties; particularly James Biggar's family, on which the hand of the Lord lay long and heavy, and carried off several of them; in their death, as in their life, comfortable to me, as above said.
Immediately after the family-fast of 23rd January, I pursued my resolution of putting in writ what I thought I had reached of the accentuation; the which I reckoned, when I began it, I might comprise in two or three leaves: but even what I designed for introduction thereto, swelled to about six sheets; and was not finished till 23rd March; the bread, by the divine blessing, increasing in the breaking. Reading the Hebrew Bible, I was most pleasurably, beyond what one can readily without feeling imagine, surprised with discoveries of the Lord's mind in His word; by means of that intrinsic light I perceived it to be illuminated with, by its own accentuation. Thus I came to be fully persuaded, as of what I saw with my eyes, that the accents are the true key to the genuine version and sense of the Hebrew text; and that they are divine. As from time to time, in that happy study, I met with new discoveries of that nature, I often thought with myself, What a trifle my digging up gold in some mine I might have fallen upon in Peru or elsewhere, would have been, in comparison of this, which I found in my accentuated Hebrew Bible!
Just on the morrow after my finishing of what I designed for introduction, and have now so intitled, came to my hand Wasmuth's Institutio accentuationis Hebraeae; the which I took for a token for good. Having glanced it the week following, I found it miring, and perceived that it wanted the tables often therein mentioned. So I was set anew to turn my eyes towards the Lord, from whom my help behoved to come; and to depend on Him for that eject. And here I cannot but admire and adore the conduct of sovereign wisdom towards me in that matter. I had no character of Wasmuth aforehand, to prepossess me; and before his book came to my hand, I was set a-seeking the knowledge of the accentuation, by the study of the sacred Hebrew text itself, considering the same as it stood accentuated. And I found so many turnings and windings, and heaps of irregulars, in that learned man's account of the accentuation, that I saw nothing therein to remove me from the method of inquiry I had been led unto, to the study thereof instead of it. Upon the account of the defect above mentioned, that copy of Wasmuth's book was returned; and some time after, I got another copy thereof having the tables, the which is yet among my books.
About this time I received letters from Edinburgh, moving the reprinting of the Everlasting Espousals, because of the continued demand for the same: the which, after being laid before the Lord, and considered, was ordered to be done. So in a short time after, there was a second edition of that sermon.
26th March.-An old temptation recurred: but I bless God the edge of it is now much blunted, in comparison of what it has been. But my heart bleeds afresh for my dear child Katherine.
On 29th March I began to make collections on the accents themselves; encouraged, and more fitted thereto, by what had fallen out, in the case of the aforesaid introduction, which is in retentis. Reading the sacred text, I studiously gathered what I could observe. And what was of great use to me, as my polestar in this study, was a notion, which by the discoveries aforesaid I was confirmed in; namely, That the true construction of the words of the text was to be determined by their accentuation, as the rule thereof to us; and not the power or value of the accents, by what seemed to us the construction of the words. This natural and most rational point was, I think, originally owing to my reading somewhere in Cross's Taghmical Art, that the verbs of the first hemistich, Ps. 2: 2, were to be repeated in the following one. I very well remember that that had a particular light with it to me. And accordingly, considering other texts at this rate, and thereby obtaining convincing discoveries of their true sense, I was fixed in that point: so Wasmuth's notion of the ambulatory value of the accents, could not take with me.
26th April.-This day I kept a secret fast, 1. To seek light in the matter of a transportation to Legertwood, proposed to me when at the synod; in the matter of adding to the eldership here; my wife's journey to Fife; the determining about the celebration of the sacrament; and the disposing of the MS. on the Fourfold State of Men. 2. To seek the Lord's presence and help in my study of the accentuation, and His blessing on the second edition of the sermon, now, I suppose, in the press. 3. On the account of the affliction of my wife and children, and of James Biggar's family, Mr. Borthwick, Lev-Muir. 4. The case of the church, the parish, and the vacancy of Simprin. These things I laid before the Lord, with some confidence in Himself, minding to hang on for them. The mortality is ceased.
4th May.-But alas! I found, three or four days ago, that I had not hung on; and therefore God has pursued me with darkness in the point of the sacrament, being extremely perplexed and embarrassed in that matter, which should have been determined on Wednesday last, but I am not cleared in it as yet. I have seen my mismanagement, in that I have not prayed and thought about it more; and have got a dear-bought lesson, to pursue by thinking, for light, in what I consult God by prayer.
Meanwhile, since that time, some things have looked better in the parish. On the day after, the examination was frequented unordinarily. On the Lord's day two contumacious persons submitted. On Tuesday, one that has been of the new separation by Mr. Taylor near a year bygone, and whom I parted with last summer as no more one of my flock, came to me, and acknowledged her sin; declaring, that from the Sabbath night after I had spoke with her, she had no rest in her mind; but that that wore off in some measure, yet a great while ago returned more vigorously; that it has worsted her private case, and wishing never any might do as she had done, and bring such bitterness to their own souls. These things had weight against the business of Legertwood.
11th May, Friday.-I was almost on the 9th resolved to celebrate the sacrament on the first Sabbath of June, and to venture over difficulties standing in the way, minding to seek the Lord on Saturday morning for a full determination. But this night arrived an express from Mr. Murray, obtesting me, as I would not have a hand in strengthening a most sinful schism, to come and assist him on the last Sabbath of this month at the communion there. This carried my perplexity to the height. I went to the Lord with this, took with my sin in not insisting as aforesaid after the fast, endeavoured and was helped to believe over the belly of that provocation. Thereafter I found the light clearing, to my answering of that call to Penpont; and having sent for two elders, they advised to it. Thus I was both punished for that sin, and matters were kept open for sending me thither. I have but four elders at this time, but design an additional number. While assisting at that sacrament, was conceived a project of transporting me to Closeburn, a parish in that neighbourhood; of which I shall take more notice afterwards.
19th July.-On the 15th the sacrament was celebrated here. The fast-day was extraordinary stormy with wind and rain; but the three days fair; and for some time before, and since, there has not been one fair day to an end. On Wednesday, in studying my action-sermon, I was sore bound up; and little better on the Tuesday afternoon, when I began it. But on the Thursday, being the fast-day, the Lord sent us two sermons with much of His countenance: hence my heart was loosed, and I resolved to try the study of the sermon again. Accordingly on the morrow I studied the last half of it anew, to more satisfaction to myself. It was delivered with some measure of solid seriousness. But in the invitation I was straitened, and yet more in the prayer for consecration of the elements: I laboured to improve the declaring of them no more common bread and wine, yet not with the desired effect. But my spirit opened a little ere the table was ended. I communicated as I preached. The work, from the beginning to the end, had a savour of God upon it; felt, I am persuaded, in the spirits of many: and His servants were remarkably helped in their work.
Having been at the communion in Maxton 12th August, and at the presbytery for Mr. B's business on the 14th, I have to remark, 1. The Lord's hearing of the joint prayers of His people, and that in two instances. One was, I had been led in the Saturday's sermon, which was on Ex. 24: 11, to beseech for and require the prayers of serious Christians, for the private cases of ministers, which I doubt not had influence on several of that sort in the meeting; and it went well with me at that communion. I think I saw the lights spoke of in that sermon, and believed. The other was my wife, who minded to have been there, but was taken ill just the night before I went away; her case was remembered not only in private, but in the public prayers, as one kept from that occasion by the afflicting hand of God. And the Lord made it a good time to her soul. 2. The hearing of prayer, and the good fruit of dependence on the Lord in presbyterial management, being sensibly assisted to a clear uptaking of matters in that difficult business. 3. The Lord's leading the blind by the way they knew not, being sweetly surprised with a providential management of matters, in two particulars, to a better account than otherwise they could have been brought.
As I came by Closeburn house, in my return home from the communion at Penpont in the end of May, the chaplain met me, and told me, that at supper on the Sabbath night they were speaking of transporting me to that parish. He had no orders that I know of to speak of it to me; so I gave a suitable return, without any shadow of encouragement. When Mr. Murray was at the sacrament here in July, he proposed it to me in earnest; and I, with all the earnestness I was capable of, discouraged the motion: so that I thought it might be laid aside. But some time in harvest I received a letter from him, shewing that the parish of Closeburn were to apply to their presbytery for that effect. This letter I judged meet neither to make public, nor yet to keep altogether secret; so I imparted the purpose of it to one of our elders. And about the 11th of September I wrote a most pathetic return, to stop that procedure of that parish.
At the which time I was writing my collections on Silluk, in a folio book I had prepared for putting down my materials in. And herein I so prospered, by the good hand of my God upon me, that, as I reckon, I began from that time to apprehend, that this business I had engaged in, for my own private benefit only, might possibly in end turn to a book for public use. And all along thereafter, until it was done, I looked upon that study as the business of my life.
About the end of this month of September, came an account to our parish, that a call to Closeburn was drawn up for me. Herewith they were much alarmed; and, in their own rough way, showed a mighty concern for my continuance among them. And thus the trouble of the parish about one began just about the time wherein, the year preceding, my trouble with them was going to the highest pitch.
What influence the awful steps of Providence that followed upon this last, as above narrated, had upon them, I cannot say. But as the spring of comfort, from the study aforesaid, was most seasonably struck up to me in my closet, when without I was so much oppressed; so, about the latter end of April, some things in the parish began to look with a better face towards my encouragement, as I have related above, p. 306, insomuch that they had weight with me against a transportation to Legertwood, which at the April synod had been proposed to me; so as I had been obliged seriously to seek the Lord's mind in it, and was one of the causes of the secret fast above mentioned. Moreover, whereas the session had been reduced to a very small number, by death and otherwise, I prevailed this summer to get their number increased: so that, on 12th July, being the fast-day before the sacrament, there were seven added to the eldership. Among these seven was Thomas Linton in Chapelhop, a man of weight and activity; who, together with another elder, and Michael Anderson younger of Tushilaw, went in December to Closeburn, by conference and reasoning to divert the storm of the designed transportation thither: but it prevailed not. But this was perhaps the last journey that Thomas Linton made; being seized with a sore and vehement trouble in his mouth and head, which kept him till he died about the end of the year 1718. He had been a notable sufferer in the time of persecution, and spoiled of all his goods; but was become very wealthy: and moreover he had a heart given him to do good with his wealth, and was very useful in the country that way. On him I bestowed this epitaph, which I suppose is to be found on his tombstone in Mary churchyard in Yarrow:
"All lost for Christ, an hundredfold
Produc'd, and he became
A father, eyes, and feet unto
The poor, the blind, the lame."
Tushilaw younger died also not very long after. He was a man of a gentle disposition, and likewise was endued with a principle of beneficence to mankind; so that, dying before his father, he was much lamented, as a father of the country.
14th November.-Being at Edinburgh to put my son to the college, and all comfortable views I had had as to the disposing of him for his quarters, having failed, I was directed to a stranger: but there were some things in that case that disgusted me. I had laid the matter over on the Lord; and behold, at the nick of time, when I was come to the last point, just going out at the chamber-door, to agree with that person for his quarters, because I could do no better, one came to me, and told me of a religious private family, which I knew nothing of, desirous of my acquaintance, and therefore of entertaining my son. This appeared to me the finger of God, and I lodged him there. This step of kind Providence was big in my eyes. After I came home, I was perplexed as to his learning, fearing his rust in that point should expose him; but within three weeks after, by a letter from the boy himself, I was delivered from that fear.
1st January 1717.-I spent some time in prayer, and humiliation, concerning the affair of Closeburn, my study of the accentuation, the case of some afflicted in the parish, and some other particulars in my own case, and that of my family, and renewing my covenant with God, not without some soul-advantage in the time. By this time I had seen the Lord's jealousy against me, for sinking so far under my pressures; and against the people, for their having been such a burden to me.
I had, on the 19th of the preceding August, begun an ordinary of subjects, for pressing unto the life and power of religion; and, in pursuance thereof, preached on walking with God, the study of the holy Scriptures, and the observing of providences. But while I was on the sweet subject last mentioned I was, by scandals abounding at that time, obliged to cut short, and forced away from it (the which has oftener than once been my lot), unto the doctrine of repentance, which I began on 27th January, and, pursuing it from several texts, ended it not till the 21st of October following. But I had no sooner ended the sermons on observing of providences, but, by the commencement of the process of transportation aforesaid, Providence did, in their sight and mine, begin a web which filled both our hearts and hands, till in August following it was wrought out. So the very first of these sermons on repentance, delivered 27th January, as aforesaid, was heard by one or more of the commissioners from Closeburn, who had obtained the calling of the presbytery to hear them, on the Tuesday after.
7th February.-This forenoon I spent in secret prayer. My ordinary affliction and temptation so set upon me at first, and embittered my spirit, that I was like to have given over the work. But reading the 58th of Isaiah for my humiliation, that word, ver. 19, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him," met me most seasonably when I was as one like to be carried away with a flood. I went to God with it, and pleaded it. And though it was not presently accomplished; yet, after about two hours and a half heartless work for the most part, it was made out; the temptation was banished away, and my heart was touched with His hand put in by the hole of the lock. Among many other ills of my life, I was particularly convinced, 1. Of my sin of superficial reading of the Scripture, not subjecting my soul, in reading it, unto it, as the divine word; whereby it has come to pass, that I have not had the feeling of the power of it that otherwise I might have had. 2. The remissness of my spirit, and heartlessness, in familyworship: 3. Not depending more on the Lord, in the work on Ezekiel, that I am now upon. 4. Not wrestling with God more in secret for the congregation, and some particular persons. Two things I had a comfortable view of-1. An unfeigned desire of universal and perfect holiness, however vile I am. 2. That though my departures are many, Thou knowest, O Lord, that I am not wicked, nor have I wickedly departed from Thee; not daring to do deliberately what I think to be an ill thing, and being in some measure tender as to endeavouring to know the mind of God with respect to the way I should go. I was concerned in the affair of Closeburn, Dr. Trotter's indisposition, the affliction of those of Midgehop, etc. Concerning the affair of Closeburn,
Remark 1. About the time of my great trouble by this parish last year, the trouble of this parish by that business began this year. 2. The Lord has punished them and me both, as above noted, by the terror of the prospect of that affair. 3. Just as I was writing this, a stranger came in, and gave me a most discouraging account of that parish. 4. I was led this day to pray for a blessing on that parish, and some particular persons in it. 5. On 29th January, the commissioners for Closeburn produced their commissions before our presbytery. I saw what I judged a flaw in that from the parish, urged it, and the commission was rejected thereupon. What moved me to this was, that I thought strict justice did not require the sustaining of that commission; and I durst not make a compliment of it, lest I should seem to lead, and not wait to be led by, Providence: and I knew not what might be in that minute circumstance. 6. But the rejecting of a commission was also the first step in the business of the transportation to Etterick. 7. The commissioners being in our house on the Wednesday's night before the presbytery, the ordinary sung in the family was Ps. 18: 41-45. After we had done with the family-worship, Mr. Murray bid me to take notice of ver. 43, if I right remember. I took little notice of it on that; but on Monday night immediately before the presbytery, we sung at their family-worship the same part of the 18th psalm, and then I could not but notice it. 8. While in our house those of that place spoke of the benefice there, I cared no more for it, nor was moved by it, than by dirt. I bless the Lord, my weak side lies not there: but the Lord let me see, that I was not to be secure on that quarter; for hearing, what I yet apprehend may be a lying story, but of that kind, my heart was catched; which I quickly perceived to my shame and sorrow; but through grace I got over it. 9. On the morrow after the presbytery, riding with the men commissioners from Closeburn, some women came forth, and wept; which much moved me, as an emblem of what would likely follow in the event of a transportation. So I gave over talking with Mr. Murray, with whom I could prevail nothing; and spoke with the other two men, till we parted in a hurry, and they appearing more hopeless than ever. This I pursued, and this I had satisfaction in, that I had discharged my conscience; and if they do return, it is on all grounds of hope from me (which I never designedly gave them) razed by me; so that if there be any further procedure in the matter, there is clear ground for holy Providence to work on. That word, Ps. 56: ult. "Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling?" has been big in my eyes, and often in my mouth, on this occasion. And that word this day was staying to my heart in some measure, Prov. 4: 12, "When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble."
27th February.-On Monday last came Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, with two ministers of the presbytery, and W. G. from the parish, in their way to Selkirk, to prosecute their call. Their coming was stunning: they staid about three quarters of an hour. When they were gone, I went and poured out my soul to the Lord, and was very remarkably carried out, to be very particular, that God would frustrate the errand they were going on. Their commission was again rejected, and they appealed to the synod. This day returning with the two ministers and W. G. their management and converse was such, that my heart was extremely set against that place.
On the 27th of March, a congregational fast wee kept, at the desire of the session, on the account of the threatened desolating of the parish, by the transportation foresaid. Three brethren of the presbytery, being invited, preached: and that day, an heritor of the parish, who all along to that time had deserted my ministry, came to the kirk, being zealous for my continuance in the place. He gave due attendance all along thereafter while he lived: but in a few years he died.
Meanwhile, though that heritor had thus laid aside his opposition to me, Satan had beforehand stirred up another adversary to fill up his room; and who was far heavier to me than ever he had been. This was (...). He had been educated under my ministry, profited in knowledge, and gave hopeful signs of his seriousness; so that he was admitted to the Lord's table: but he was snared with youthful lusts, and first convicted of fornication on 14th December 1716. But not being duly humbled on that occasion, but making great difficulty in satisfying the discipline, he fell into one mire of filthiness after another, some being legally discovered, some spurning all means of legal discovery: so that I had almost a continual fight with him for many years after. And to this day he continues an adversary; only he never deserted the ordinances: and I still think he has some good thing about him, that may at length prevail against this profaneness, pride, and vanity.
27th April.-In the end of March my wife and I spent some time in prayer on the affair of Closeburn. Last week the synod sustained the commission rejected by the presbytery, appointed the presbytery to meet on this affair on the first Tuesday of June, allowing the pursuers to appeal to the synod, to meet on the third Wednesday of June; and this, that there might be no ground of complaining of them to the general assembly. Howbeit, the pursuers appealed to the general assembly. Yesterday I spent some time in prayer, laying the call of Closeburn before the Lord; having received it at the synod, but never opened it till before the Lord in that exercise. I observe, 1. Whereas three ministers preached at the fast in the congregation, the first was remarkably carried out in prayer for averting of this stroke; the second touched it but little; the third, least. Both the times aforesaid, in secret, I was remarkably carried out for my own private case, but less when I came to that business. The first of these times, the stream of influences ran, in wrestling with God for grace towards personal holiness; yesterday, in embracing personally the covenant, or covenanting with God; in the which the Lord was pleased so to blow upon me, that I think, in all my life, I never had more, if ever so much, clear and distinct uptakings of the gospel-offer, solid, distinct, and hearty acceptance of it, and confidence in managing it. I had an unusual view, and in some measure yet have, of God as Creator loving His creatures, and giving His own Son for sinners, to bring them to be happy in the enjoyment of Himself; producing in me confidence in, and love to, this bountiful and gracious God. 2. Having spread the call of Closeburn before the Lord yesterday, though the subscriptions, being 118, did touch me; yet I could have no view of the matter, but as leaving behind me a broken parish, and one I must be rent from, to go to another broken parish, where I must expect but cold entertainment: so that nothing of a call from God appears to me in it. Otherwise, I was helped to be easy about the matter, having laid it over on the Lord. 3. I remember not, that ever I had, on an occasion of weight, at the synod, so much ado to fix my feet, in point of confidence in the Lord, when praying about the particular, as I had at the synod last week in this affair. Some untenderness in my conversation at home found me out, and hung about me there; so that it cost sore struggling. 4. The minute circumstance of the commission, p. 312, has now brought forth a great matter, viz., the carrying the matter of the transportation so as it cannot come before the next general assembly for decision, though it do otherwise. And though it go to the commission, and I should be laid under their sentence without light in my own breast, I would look on that as a light matter, in comparison of a sentence of the general assembly in such circumstances. I am fully satisfied in my following the conduct of Providence nicely on that little head: In minimis Deus maximus. 5. Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick owned to me at the synod, that my letters to Mr. Murray put him to a stand, but that he came the second time upon hearing that I would be submissive; though, much I think to the confounding of us all three, it was owned that the most I said was these words, "No less will make me to go to Closeburn, than what would make me to take a mountain on my shoulders." 6. The heritor aforesaid, who would never come to the kirk since my settlement in this parish, by the prospect of this transportation was brought to come on the fastday, and continues so to do, being zealous for my staying among them. Meanwhile scandalous outbreakings in the parish have abounded more since this business commenced, than for a good while before.
1st May.-I went to Edinburgh to the general assembly, and returned on the 17th. On the last of April, I designed to have taken journey, my wife being indisposed. I was ready to take my horse; but going to prayer with my wife, to commit the family to the Lord, I could not get my family committed to Him as usual. So rising up from prayer, I presently concluded I could not and should not go. It was well ordered; for afterwards my wife was better, and I found there was no need of the haste which I then apprehended there was.
In Edinburgh I found some were impressed with my inclination to go to Closeburn, which I endeavoured to carry off. On the 8th of May I had a toss with Mr. Murray before Sir Thomas, he affirming, and I denying, that I had given them ground by word or deed; and Sir Thomas declaring, that if he had not been informed so, he would not have insisted. When the business came before the committee of bills, Mr. P. opened up the case of the parish of Closeburn. This obliged me, otherwise unwilling to speak, to open up the case of Etterick too; which, with much difficulty I obtained leave to do, a plain sway to the other side appearing in that committee; which much oppressed my spirit. When it came before the assembly, our synod was mostly absent, those of them present little to be trusted (and the truth is, I saw none of our synod there, but those of our own presbytery, I could have confidence in), and the same sway appeared there. This made me break silence there, which I had kept for seventeen years in that judicatory: and being touched, the Lord helped me to speak without fear. I cannot but observe kind Providence that suffered Mr. P. to make that unseasonable discourse on the merits of the cause, and that our synod was mostly absent when it came before the assembly; for these things obliged me, otherwise unwilling, to speak; whereby the respective judicatories could not but perceive how I stood affected to the thing.
The issue of the conference with Mr. Murray and Sir Thomas, and of the sway I perceived in the committee and assembly, ready to make a compliment of the business, was, that still there appeared to me less of God in the matter; and so it tended to my farther clearing, as to my not being called to go to that place.
The synod of Dumfries seemed at first (according to my information), while they thought I was willing, not to be disposed to be active in it: afterwards they seemed to be keen. Wherefore meeting with one of their leading men, I represented some things concerning myself, that I thought might cause them to remit of that keenness, as my not employing jurors, etc. (though by the by what I have done that way is merely on the ground of offence, not that I am straitened in my own conscience as to such joining); and it seemed to have something of the desired effect. So in the end I became very easy.
At that assembly, the affair of Mr. John Simson, professor of theology in the college of Glasgow, pursued by that great man, Mr. James Webster, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and which had been in dependence for several years, was ended, with great softness to the professor; who, from the attempts he had then made against the doctrine of the grace of Christ, has since advanced to attack the doctrine of the person of Christ, and to overthrow the foundations of Christianity. The said affair being ended at one of the diets, in the following diet was taken in a proposition, calculated by the presbytery of Auchterarder, for opposing the erroneous doctrine of Professor Simson, on the occasion of a suspected young man on trials before them. This proposition, called in derision the Auchterarder creed, was all at once at that diet judged and condemned; though some small struggle was made in defence thereof. And poor I was not able to open a mouth before them in that cause; although I believed the proposition to be truth, howbeit not well worded. It was as follows. "It is not sound and orthodox to teach, that we must forsake sin, in order to our coming to Christ, and instating us in covenant with God." For this, when I came to my chamber, my conscience smote me grievously; for that I could speak in my own cause, as said is, but could not speak in the public cause of truth. And I was obliged yet to speak upon it, and exoner my conscience, when it was out of season; that is, upon the reading over of the minute about it, in the following diet. But this was made an useful lesson to me afterward; and gave me something to balance my natural diffidence and bashfulness, and to incite me to speak when I saw the cause of truth call for it.
And here, namely, in the condemnation of that proposition, was the beginning of the torrent, that for several years after ran, in the public actings of this church, against the doctrine of grace, under the name of Antinomianism; and is unto this day overflowing. Meanwhile, at the same time sitting in the assemblyhouse, and conversing with Mr. John Drummond, minister of Crief, one of the brethren of that presbytery above mentioned, I happened to give him my sense of the gospel offer, Isa. 55: 1, Matt. 11: 28, with the reason thereof; and withal to tell him of the Marrow of Modern Divinity. Hereupon he, having inquired in the shops for the said book, at length got it; and from him Mr. James Webster getting it, was taken therewith; and afterward, Mr. Drummond himself being hardly allowed time to read it through, it came into the hands of Mr. James Hog, minister of Carnock; and in end was reprinted in the year 1718, with a preface by the said Mr. Hog, dated at Carnock, 3rd December 1717. The mentioning of that book in the said conversation, I had quite forgot; and that these things followed thereupon, I did not at all know, till about half a score of years after this, that Mr. Wilson my friend, having got the account from Mr. Drummond occasionally, did relate it to me. But the publishing of that then obscure book, at that time, having been so remarkable in its consequences, and this to the signal advantage of the truth of the gospel in this church, I could not but rejoice from my heart in that relation, reckoning it a great honour the Lord had put upon me, that by such a beautiful step of providence I had been made the remote occasion thereof.
At this time my daughter Alison, having a trouble in her nose, got by a fall when a child, for which, of a considerable time that season, we had, by advice of a surgeon, washed it by the help of a syringe; I, in the time of the assembly, having been advised by my wife that the trouble had grown worse, consulted two surgeons about it. And they, apprehending danger, moved that she should be brought in to Edinburgh to them, for cure. So coming away, I left my son John in the town indisposed, and returned home, looking on myself as a candle burning at both ends, considering my son's case behind me, and my daughter's before me; but labouring to encourage myself in the Lord. On the 26th of May, I had advice that my son was sick of the measles. The 29th was prefixed for carrying in Alison, for the end foresaid: but the Lord mercifully broke that appointment, by my wife's becoming unfit for travel, the night before; and on the day appointed there was an extraordinary fall of rain. Then that day eight days was prefixed for the effect foresaid: but on the intervening Saturday, after some time spent in prayer that morning, my wife and I sitting together in the garden, were surprised to hear by the servant, that something had fallen out of the child's nose. The same being taken up, and brought to us, was found to be a piece of the cartilage, and to smell very rank: but there was no rank smell in the nose any more, nor yet any wound; but as the deliverance came in an instant, it was perfect too, and most seasonable. My son, having been sent for, came home in health on the Wednesday after; which was the day that had been determined for carrying in my daughter. This was a surprising deliverance in a case appearing very hopeless, and was wonderful in our eyes. O the wisdom and goodness that appeared in it, and in timing it and my wife's indisposition, and in making the rain to come on that day, whereby our purpose was broken! This was a most signal piece of the conduct of Providence towards me, of a most diffusive usefulness in point of practice, however it has been improved.
Being called to exercise the last Sabbath night I was in Edinburgh, I had prepared to speak on Gen. 5: 24, "And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him." Betwixt sermons I got notice, that I behoved to have that exercise in another house than had been designed) the family of that other house having received that morning the news of a son dead abroad. The suitableness of the text to that unexpected occasion, was worth observing: He leads the blind in the way they knew not.
The affair of Closeburn coming again before the presbytery, they refused the transportation. The pursuers appealed to the synod, which met at Kelso on the 18th of June, and sat but one day. I went thither, secure that the synod would refer it to the commission, and that I would not need to speak much on the business. When I came there, my measures were quite altered by means of my best friends, who judged it necessary that the synod should come to a sentence, and that I should speak very fully. The pursuers were most vigorous in their management, which obliged me to produce what I thought to have kept up till the commission. So I told the synod plainly, that it was not only contrary to my inclination, but to my light; and that unless my conscience were convinced, I could not comply, and mere human authority would not do it. The synod refused it also, and so the pursuers appealed to the commission. I found myself at a great loss, in point of confidence in prayer for light and furniture for speaking before the synod: having thought there would be little need of speaking there, I had been very little concerned to prepare for it, and now there remained no competent time for it. But in the very little time I had, I endeavoured to fix my confidence in the Lord, notwithstanding my former security, making free grace my refuge, labouring to believe His grace should be sufficient for my throughbearing, as if I had been at all pains before. Here I saw the advantage of my heart's being impressed with the doctrine of free grace; whereas had I been in fetters that way, I would here have had no way to have settled my heart in the faith of the promise. After the synod was over, some of the members seemed to intimate to me, that I would certainly be transported by the commission. This damped me exceedingly, judging them to be such as might know the minds of the leading men there: and this damp continued long with me at home.
13th July.-This day having spent some time in prayer about the affair of Closeburn, I found my heart was much quieted, in that I was conscious to myself, that, whatever my aversion thereto is, I would be ready to put the knife to the throat of my inclinations, if the Lord should discover His mind in favour thereof, though no such thing as yet appears. I found also a serious concern in my spirit to be guided of the Lord in it; even of Him who leads the blind in the way they know not, and to whom all His works are known from the beginning; seeing myself in hazard of falling into some piece of mismanagement that afterwards may prove a snare. And for this in particular I put myself in the Lord's hand.
On Thursday 15th August, the affair of Closeburn came before the commission, for final decision. Much dealing there was with the members, by both parties. The spate ran high for the transportation, when we came to town; but by dealing with members it was somewhat abated. Advocates were employed on both sides: but after reading of papers, and hearing of parties and their counsel on both sides, when we were to be removed, I did with great affection, being in deep concern, deliver before them, from a paper I had prepared, besides my answers to the reasons of transportation, a speech, the tenor whereof, as setting my case and circumstances in due light, here follows.
"It is with the utmost concern I see myself sisted before the Rev. Commission of the General Assembly, in a process for transporting me to the parish of Closeburn; having sometimes hoped, that such an obscure person as I might have finished his course and ministry, without being heard in such a judicatory, at least on such an occasion. But since, by an excess of charity towards me, in the honourable persons and Rev. ministers concerned in the call of Closeburn, whose undeserved respect I shall always be sensible of, this appearance is forced upon me, my hearty concern for the good of the parish of Etterick, which is very dear to me, for the true interest of the parish of Closeburn, and for my own welfare, obliges me, freely to speak, before you, the thoughts of my heart, in this affair; resolving rather to run the risk of being accounted imprudent, than to mince the matter so as the cause may suffer, wherein I judge the interest of the gospel, and my comfort, lie so much at stake. And if anything shall, in my discourse, be set in the light which otherwise should have been veiled with silence, I humbly beg the Rev. Commission, those of mine own parish, and the pursuers, will only impute it, as it ought to be, to the extreme necessity I am reduced to, for my own defence, in which I am not indifferent, but in earnest.
"Moderator, When I consider how hard my work has been, in the parish of Etterick, by reason of the divisive temper which has prevailed in that place, it fills me with confusion and terror, to think I am in hazard of being thrown into a far hotter flame. I own God is just in it; but I hope for compassion from Him, to whom the quarrel is open and manifest; and I expect it also from His servants, to whom the cause of this is not certainly known. I enjoyed the fruits of peace, for some years, elsewhere; otherwise perhaps the want of it had not been so bitter to me: but since that time, my eyes have seen but little of it. I have stood as in a pass, for the space of ten years; and possibly if I had had less trouble, others had got more. Had I been so happy as to have seen the breach in the parish of Etterick healed, there had been some appearance of reason, in putting me on new work of that kind; for then would I have had hope of success. But it is not so. I have said in my answers, that the breaches in the parish of Etterick are still as wide as they were that day I came first among them: but, what is truth, now necessary to be discovered, they are indeed far wider. The Old Dissenters whom I found there at my coming, continue as they were, having lost none of their number but one, who, being educated in that way, left it about a year ago. But I have lost many, who, breaking off from under my ministry, have separated themselves from the communion of this church. This deserting of my ministry began not long after I was settled in that place: and while I was grappling with these difficulties, it pleased the Lord, in His holy, wise providence, for my further trial, to remove by death, and otherwise, several of the eldership. And though, for several years, I made attempts again and again to get the session supplied; yet could I not prevail to get a competent number of elders, till about a year ago. And I am persuaded I had not obtained it at that time neither, but that, no end of the deserting humour appearing, and finding the misled persons, time after time, confirmed in their prejudices, by absenting from the ordinances, a considerable space before I knew that they were led aside, I was like to sink under my burden; which I discovered to some; whose hearts were at length moved with compassion, and otherwise, to take part with me and the rest, in the Lord's work in the congregation; whereby my heart has been encouraged, and my hands strengthened. And now that I have obtained this, must I see I have obtained it, only to the end I might leave them? that I have tasted of the comfortable fruits thereof, only that by the plucking them from my mouth, my being condemned unto my former uncomfortable work might be made more bitter? Must I be obliged to leave that congregation, just when, by the good hand of God upon me, I am put in a capacity to be more serviceable among them than ever I was all the nine years preceding?
"Although I cannot own this change in the state of the parish of Etterick to be owing to the struggle made for this transportation, since it was begun ere the least motion was made in that affair; yet it is evident, the congregation of Etterick in the communion of this church, have all along, in the progress of that business, cordially adhered to me, and exerted their utmost endeavours for my continuance among them; and that there is no removing of me out of that parish, but by renting me from them; which I hope may be admitted as an evidence, that my labours have not been altogether in vain there. I beg the Very Reverend Commission to consider, what will be the consequences of renting me, by this transportation, from that congregation. The desolating of that parish, which lies at such a distance from neighbour-kirks, as has been represented; and that in a mountainous country, which it is hard to travel to or from in the winter-season, as appears from their not having one sermon in their church for eight or nine Sabbaths successively, in time of their last vacancy; the desolating, I say, of that parish in such circumstances, would challenge the serious regard of our Reverend judges, though both they and I were indifferent in the matter of this transportation. But since it is far otherwise, on their part, as well as on mine, how can I think on their case, as left irritated, both heritors and people?
"Moderator, I was planted in that parish under a great disadvantage, with respect to most of the honourable persons, heritors of it; yet now it is quite against their mind that I be removed. And I doubt they think themselves but harshly treated by the judicatories of this church, if my removal from, and my settlement in, that parish, be so much of a piece as this transportation will make them. And as there is very little hope, that they and the people will agree in the choice of another minister, so it is hardly to be expected, but that the manner of my settlement in that parish will be remembered, on another such occasion, to the prejudice of the interest of the gospel there, and I fear (not without ground) to a more public prejudice. What shall become of the irritated people, bereaved of their pastor, to whose ministry, by the good hand of God, they have adhered, notwithstanding of their manifold temptations to desert it, and the communion of this church? How will the scorn of their deserting neighbours work on their passions? Can any who know the circumstances of that country, obtain it of themselves to think, that such a fair occasion for promoting the schism there will be neglected? Will not those who have kept their meetings several times within the bounds of the parish since I was settled there, return again to the churchyard, where they have met in the time of the last vacancy? The parish of Etterick is almost quite surrounded with neighbouring parishes, notably broken, as well as they are themselves; in one of which, Eskdalemoor, separatists of different factions have their distinct parties, and their meetings one after another: and some of my congregation are almost as near to a church which the presbytery has seldom, if ever, access to, viz. Wamphray, as they are to their own church. I am loth to be more particular on this head; I wish the Reverend Commission may in due time inquire further into the state of that country. But from what is said it appears, that the parish of Etterick, lying in the centre, is, by this transportation, threatened to be made the very seat of separation in that country.
"Moderator, the parish of Closeburn is so considerable, numerous, and divided, that it is a burden quite too heavy for me, and requires a minister endued with qualifications I cannot pretend to, and withal of another spirit than I am; being very unfit, on many accounts, to appear in the world in any such post, even though it were an unanimous parish. But as it is a parish notably divided, I am still the more unfit for it. I have had too much acquaintance with myself, in the management of the parish of Etterick, to think I am fit to undertake the charge of the parish of Closeburn' wherein (I am persuaded) the work of the gospel would egregiously suffer in my hands. I know that little stress is sometimes put upon professions of this nature; but I do ingenuously declare, that, in my most retired thoughts of this transportation, the disadvantages I find I labour under from myself, in managing my work in the congregation I am set over, do so stare me in the face, that I cannot encourage this design, without a witness against me in my own bosom, testifying I should be injurious to the parish of Closeburn, in accepting their call, which I plainly perceive has proceeded on a mistake concerning me. For though it has pleased the Lord sometimes to make my preaching-gift acceptable to His people; yet it is well known to those of my acquaintance, I labour under some uncommon disadvantages, which render me unfit for such a post.
"Besides, Moderator, I have seriously considered the matter of this transportation again and again, and I can have no other apprehension of it, but that it will be a renting of me from a congregation whose hearts are pierced with the thoughts of my removal from them, and a throwing me undesired into another. I am convinced, that upon whatever views that parish made choice of me to be their minister, when they signed their call to me, matters are now so far altered, that had some things, with relation to the parish of Etterick and to myself, which in the progress of this affair have manifestly appeared, to the conviction of all unblessed persons, been believed before this process was commenced, they had not proceeded therein. And whatever reason the pursuers may have to go on, since they have begun, I hope our Very Reverend Judges will find themselves obliged to determine as the present state of affairs requires. Several persons, commissioners from the parish of Closeburn, at different times, have had the trouble of several long journeys in this affair, which I am heartily sorry for. And I freely own, that Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, and another of that parish, have all along appeared cordial and serious in that matter: but I must have been unaccountably blinded, if, by repeated evidences otherwise, I had not perceived the parish of Closeburn not inclined to be hard on the parish of Etterick in this affair. And however this might perhaps be deemed to be of small importance in the case of one inclinable to embrace their call; yet it cannot but have weight with our Reverend and compassionate judges, in the case of a fixed minister, whose congregation and himself must both be violented, in order to the casting him in upon another that desires him not.
"Moderator, I need not put the Reverend Commission in mind of the great end of this project, namely, the healing of breaches there: but I heartily wish it may be duly weighed, whether this transportation be a means proper for attaining that end? And one would think, some more than ordinary certainty was necessary in this point, especially considering that the widening of the breaches in Etterick, and the adjacent parts, will surely follow upon the event of this transportation; and that a mistake, or false step, in an affair relating to such a broken country as Nithsdale is, may be of dangerous consequence. I am persuaded, with the Reverend synod of Merse and Teviotdale, that this transportation will not answer the end; and think it strange, if any who know all circumstances be otherwise minded. Whatever measures the wisdom of some other person, who shall be called to that parish, may suggest unto him for compassing the desired end, I find myself so straitened in that respect, that I cannot forbear to say, with all deference to my Reverend Judges, that the transporting me to Closeburn, will in effect be a driving me into a snare, where, to which hand soever I turn, I must be broken.
"Now, Moderator, will the justice of the Reverend Commission allow them to lay a congregation desolate, which was planted with so much difficulty, has been managed with so much uneasiness, and, upon the event of this transportation, must become the very seat of separation in the country, and which there is so very little hope of the comfortable supply of, they in the meantime so vigorously reclaiming; and all this in a time wherein there is so very little need of transportations, but the parish pursuing may be otherwise settled, to far greater advantage? Will their respect to the peace of this church suffer them to give such ground of irritation to a congregation in these circumstances I have narrated? Will their compassion allow them to take one whose spirit is already shattered with the effects of the divisive temper, and cast him into another place, where it must be far more so? or to lead out one, and set him upon the ice, where he knows no way (in the course of ordinary Providence) how to keep his feet; and when he falls, must fall for nought, I mean, no advantage to the church gained thereby? Nay, Moderator, I cannot believe these things.
"I have the greatest aversion to this transportation; and whoso considers what I have represented, will not think it strange. I hope the Reverend Commission will not violent me; which they will do, if they transport me to Closeburn. The case of the Reverend Mr. Warden's transportation to Falkirk, and of the Reverend Mr. Wodrow's to Stirling, which were refused by the Commission, though each of these parishes is more considerable than the parish here pursuing, are such instances of the lenity of this Very Reverend Judicatory, that it will be thought exceeding strange, if it shall be my lot only to be violented.
"Moderator, I have been twice settled already; and I bless the Lord, who was pleased, in both, convincingly to shew me His own call coming along with the call of His church. And I have felt so much need of the former, its accompanying the latter, that I would be most inexcusable to venture on removing to another parish without it. I was persuaded in my conscience of the Lord's calling me to Etterick; and my clearness as to my call to that place, was never overclouded, no not in my darkest hours; and had I not had that to support me there, I had sunk under my burden. Now I have endeavoured, according to the measure of the grace bestowed on me, to set aside my own inclinations, and the consideration of the case and satisfaction of my own heart, and to lay this matter before the Lord, for light, to discover His mind about it, labouring to wait upon Him in the way of His word and works. But I sincerely declare, after all, I have no clearness to accept the call of Closeburn, nor a foundation for my conscience, in this transportation, which ought not to rest on human authority. I have all deference for the authority of this church, and my ministry is very dear to me: so I cast myself down at your feet, begging that you will not grant this transportation, which has been refused by the presbytery and synod whereof I am a member; and who are best acquainted with the state of the parish of Etterick, and what concerns me; whereas both that parish and I are known but to very few of our now Reverend Judges. But if it shall please the holy wise God, to suffer me now, for my trial and correction, to fall under your sentence, transporting me from the parish of Etterick to the parish of Closeburn; since it is a charge I have no clearness to undertake, I resolve, through grace, rather to suffer, than to enter upon it blindfolded. Though, in the meantime, I cannot help thinking, it will be hard measure to punish me, because I cannot see with other men's eyes; especially considering that the presbytery of Selkirk, and the Reverend Synod of Merse and Teviotdale, have, by their respective sentences, continued me in Etterick, upon very weighty grounds contained in the sentence of the latter in this affair."
The deep concern I was in, naturally formed the delivery of the speech. Parties being removed, I went into a seat in the church alone, and gave myself to prayer, it being in the night-season: I cast myself over on the Lord, to follow still as He should go before, but no otherwise; and in case of the sentence going against me, was resolved to protest for liberty to complain to the assembly, and never to undertake that charge, unless light broke up to me, which had not yet appeared. But by a vast majority, the sentence passed in our favour: and others, as well as I, were convinced, that the speech I delivered, was that which influenced the Commission, and moved their compassion.
Thus ended that weighty affair, for which several of the godly through the country, particularly those of the meetings for Christian fellowship in Galashiels, had been concerned before the Lord. About fourteen days before, at the sacrament of Maxton, laying hold on the covenant, which is a covenant of promises, I was helped to some distinctness in applying the several sorts of promises, as those for pardon, for sanctification, for direction, etc., and this with a particular view to that business then before me. And I must say, the Lord was with me in the management, giving me in that hour, both what to speak, and courage to speak it; and even when I ran, He left me not to stumble. One of our heritors that I had confidence in, quite failed me: but Sir William Scot, the principal one, surprised me with his personal appearance, and standing by me in judgement, which he had all along refused. My inclinations in that matter having been most injuriously misrepresented by some ministers and others, by the issue they were silenced. That which was the real ground of my aversion to Closeburn, was, that I had a most uncomfortable life in Etterick, and my work among them had all along been exceeding heavy; through the disposition of the people, selfish, conceited, and bending towards the schism, which has most deep rooting in this place: hence proceeded contempt of ordinances, ministers, etc., to the great breaking of my spirit. To have gone to Closeburn, a parish of the same character, I reckoned would have been just to begin my weary task anew; in one word, to have cast me out of the frying-pan into the fire. Otherwise, to have been transported from Etterick, and gone any whither, where the gospel would have been heard and received at my hands, would have been most gladly embraced by me, if the Lord Himself had but said it. Besides, I had been advised, that the air did not agree with my wife's constitution, and tended to impair her health; and that it would overcome me at length. Of these my heavy circumstances in this place, I had been speaking to Mr. Murray, and he took occasion to provide this remedy of the transportation to Closeburn, which I looked on as ill as the disease, in respect of the uncomfortableness of my work, which the more wholesome air could not counterbalance to me. As for my wife’s conduct in the matter, it was as became a Christian, spoke forth much self-denial, and resignation to the will of the Lord; making not the least uneasiness to me in point of my conscience. The design of Providence in the whole affair I take to have been, as at first, to rebuke the parish and myself; and, I would fain hope, to cement and knit us more closely for the time to come. And they seem to have a sense of the mercy.
This toss hindered the administering of the sacrament this year; which was the only interruption it had met with, from the year 1710, that the course of it was begun.
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